Ultrasounds in pregnancy, things to know

What is the ultrasound that is done in pregnancy?

Fetal ultrasound (sonography) is a technique that uses sound waves to produce images of the fetus. Fetal ultrasound images can help your doctor evaluate your baby’s growth and development and monitor your pregnancy. In some cases, fetal ultrasound is used to evaluate for possible problems or to confirm a diagnosis.

Ultrasounds use sound waves to create an image of the baby in the womb. They are painless, have no known side effects on mothers or babies, and can be done at any stage of a pregnancy. Talk to your midwife, GP or obstetrician about any concerns you may have in this regard.

An ultrasound in pregnancy is usually a happy event, but keep in mind that ultrasounds can detect some serious health conditions, so try to be prepared for such information as well.

What will happen at the time of the ultrasound?

Most of the ultrasounds are done by sonographers who are doctors or technicians who use the ultrasound as a means of diagnostic investigation and control. The ultrasound is done in a dimly lit room so the sonographer will be able to get good pictures of your baby.

You will be asked to lie flat on your back and bring out your belly.

The ultrasound technician will put an ultrasound gel on your belly, which will make sure there is good contact between the machine and your skin.

Then a probe will be passed over the belly and an image of the baby will appear on the ultrasound screen.

During the exam, the sonographer should hold the screen in a position that gives him a good view of the baby.

He will carefully examine your baby’s body. You may need to apply gentle pressure on your belly to get a better view

How long will an ultrasound take?

An ultrasound usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. However, if the baby lies in an awkward position or moves around a lot, the sonographer may not be able to get a good view.

If it is difficult for him to get a good picture, the ultrasound may take longer or be repeated at another time.

Can an ultrasound harm me or my baby?
Since performing an ultrasound, there are no known risks to either the baby or the mother, but still it is important to carefully consider whether or not to perform the ultrasound.

This is because ultrasound can provide information that could lead to important decisions. For example, you may be offered additional tests, such as an amniocentesis, tests that carry the risk of miscarriage.

When are ultrasound scans offered?

According to the Regions in our country, pregnant women are offered from two to three ultrasound scans.

  • The first ultrasound is performed during the first trimester, usually between the 10th and 14th week of pregnancy;
  • the second ultrasound is performed in the third trimester, usually between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy.
  • any third ultrasound is performed during the third trimester, between the thirty-second and thirty-sixth week of pregnancy.

The first ultrasound in pregnancy

The first ultrasound is mainly used for,

  • determine if you are pregnant,
  • the location: in the uterus or outside,
  • the number: single or twin,
  • its dating.

Dating is done by measuring – literally – the embryo,

  • its length (CRL),
  • the biparietal diameter (BPD), or the distance between its two parietal bones.

When its length (CRL) is between 48 and 84 mm, the first ultrasound may include the measurement of nuchal translucency, or the thickness of the fetus’s neck, which is part of the combined screening test for Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) if you choose to have this screening.

The second ultrasound in pregnancy (morphological ultrasound)

The second ultrasound is usually done between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. This ultrasound, which is sometimes called a morphology ultrasound , is used to check the physical condition of the fetus.

It also serves to evaluate the position and structure of the placenta, as well as the adequate presence of amniotic fluid.

Through morphological ultrasound, in this phase of pregnancy it is already possible to observe the sex of the unborn child.

The third ultrasound during pregnancy (biometric ultrasound)

In addition to evaluating the growth of the fetus, the purpose of the third ultrasound is to see how it is positioned: in a cephalic or podiacal position. Finally, with the biometric echo the placental insertion and the amount of amniotic fluid are also evaluated.

Risks of ultrasound in pregnancy

Diagnostic ultrasound in pregnancy has been used for many years and is generally considered safe when done appropriately. The minimum amount of ultrasound energy to provide an accurate assessment should be used.

Fetal ultrasound also has limitations. It may not detect all birth defects, or it may incorrectly suggest that a birth defect is present when it is not.

When will I receive the results?

The ultrasound technician will be able to tell you the results of the ultrasound right now.

Do I have to do ultrasounds?

No, not if you don’t want to. Some people want to find out if their child is more likely to have a certain condition, while others don’t. The 12 week ultrasound and the 20 week ultrasound will be ;offered’ to you, but you don’t have to.

Your choice will be respected if you decide not to have ultrasounds and your prenatal care will continue as normal. You will be given the opportunity to discuss this with your maternity team before making your decision.

What can an ultrasound be used for?

Ultrasound can be used for:

  • check the size of your baby: the 12 weeks ultrasound gives a better idea about the weeks you are pregnant; due date due originally calculated from the first day of your last period, can be changed based on ultrasound measurements.
    check if you are pregnant with more than 1 child
  • detect some of his (their) physical conditions
  • show the position of your baby and placenta – for example, when the placenta is low in late pregnancy, a caesarean section may be advised
  • check that the baby is growing normally – this is especially important if you have twins or had problems in this pregnancy or in a previous pregnancy.

Can I bring family or friends with me when I have the ultrasound?
Yes. You may want someone to come with you to your ultrasound appointment.

Most hospitals do not allow children to attend ultrasound scans as there is usually no childcare available. Ask your hospital for information before your appointment.

Remember, an ultrasound is an important doctor’s visit and is treated the same way as any other hospital investigation. Ultrasound scans can sometimes find that there are problems with the baby.

If everything seems normal, what happens next?

Most ultrasounds show that the baby is developing normally and do not reveal any problems. This is because most children are healthy. You can continue with your routine prenatal care.

If the ultrasound shows your baby is more likely to have a certain condition, what happens next?
If it shows that your baby is more likely to have a condition, the sonographer may ask another member of staff for a second opinion. You may be offered another test to find out for sure if your baby has this condition.

If you are offered further tests, you will be given relevant information so that you can decide whether or not you are interested and you can also discuss this with your midwife or consultant.

If necessary, you will be referred to a specialist, possibly in another hospital.

Can I find out the gender of my baby?
Finding out the sex of your baby is part of the national screening program.

If you want to find out the gender of your baby, you can usually do so during the 20 week mid pregnancy ultrasound, but this depends on the policy; doctored by your hospital. Before the ultrasound begins, let the sonographer know that you are interested in knowing the gender of your baby.

However, keep in mind that it is not possible for the sonographer to be 100% sure about the gender of your baby. For example, if your baby is lying in an awkward position, it may be difficult or impossible for him to tell you.

Some hospitals have adopted a policy of not disclosing the gender of children. To find out more, talk to your sonographer or midwife.

Can I have a photo of my baby?
You will need to find out if your hospital provides this service. If it does, there may be a charge.

L’ecography 2D, 3D o 4D?

Static three-dimensional (3D) and moving (4D) ultrasound likely allow a leap in quality in the diagnosis of some fetal malformations and make many pregnant women happy (they offer spectacular images).

The use of the 3D exam allows the detailed reconstruction of anatomical parts otherwise not well defined with the two-dimensional image.

Transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound

  • Transvaginal ultrasound. With this type of fetal ultrasound, a rod-like device — called a transducer — is inserted into the vagina to send out sound waves and pick up the reflections. Transvaginal ultrasound is used most often during early pregnancy. This type of ultrasound may also be done if a transabdominal ultrasound does not provide enough information.
  • Transabdominal ultrasound. Transabdominal fetal ultrasound is performed by moving a transducer across the abdomen.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform, Maternicity.com.

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