Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy Ultrasounds

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A sonographer looking at the ultrasound imageIf you’re expecting your first baby, congratulations first of all!. It’s a beautiful feeling, and the joy and excitement that comes with the whole journey of delivering a baby are indescribable. To ensure a healthy pregnancy, your gynaecologist will ask you to get multiple ultrasounds spread over the nine months until it’s time for delivery.

Although there are some basic pregnancy ultrasounds that every pregnant woman will be advised of, there may be variations in the types and number of pregnancy ultrasounds depending on your and the developing baby’s health.

Put simply; ultrasounds are a regular part of the prenatal medical care of pregnant women. Read on to learn about the top reasons for pregnancy ultrasounds, different types of advanced ultrasounds, and how to prepare for them. Let’s get started.

Reasons for Getting Ultrasound During the 1stTrimester

In the first trimester of your pregnancy, you will be recommended the standard or your first ultrasound between 6 and 8 weeks. Although your gynaecologist may have confirmed your pregnancy based on your pregnancy test and symptoms, the first ultrasound helps determine many things about your pregnancy, which otherwise can be challenging to determine and identify. 

Therefore, the standard first ultrasound is carried by the sonographer to: 

  •         Confirm pregnancy
  •         Check the heartbeat of the fetal
  •         Estimate a due date by determining the gestational age of the developing baby
  •         Look for multiple pregnancies 
  •         Examine the reproductive organs of the pregnant woman, such as ovaries, cervix, placenta and uterus 
  •         Diagnose miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy (where the fetus is not attached to the uterus)
  •         Determine any abnormal fetus growth

You may be advised additional ultrasounds in the first trimester if:

  •         There is no fetal heartbeat in the six or eight week
  •         You have spotting during pregnancy
  •         You are carrying more than one baby

Reasons forGetting Ultrasound During the 2ndand 3rdTrimesters

During the second trimester, at 18 to 22 weeks, you will be advised to get a standard ultrasound done. This is for all pregnant women. It is done to determine the baby’s gender and confirm normal anatomy.

Apart from this, various other ultrasounds may be done during the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy if there may be a problem related to fetus development or your health. In such a situation, you will have to get different types of ultrasound scans as specified by your gynaecologist. They may be done to: 

  •         Observe the growth of the fetus
  •         Monitor the position of the fetus
  •         Confirm multiple pregnancies 
  •         Check placenta for problems 
  •         Check the flow of blood and fetus of abnormalities in the fetus
  •         Estimate the amniotic fluid levels
  •         Look for birth defects or congenital 
  •         Find out if the fetus is receiving an adequate amount of oxygen 
  •         Measure the cervix length 
  •         Diagnose pregnancy tumours and problems with ovaries
  •         Determine the position of the baby 
  •         Investigate pregnancy complications in case of abnormal bleeding
  •         Determine the risk of a premature or preterm labour

Categories of Ultrasound 

Pregnancy ultrasounds are divided into two categories:

Transvaginal Ultrasound

This ultrasound is done before week six. It is not common because most women don’t show signs or symptoms of pregnancy before six weeks. However, those who do their gynaecologist may recommend a transvaginal ultrasound scan to confirm pregnancy.

The procedure uses a long and small wand (transducer) wrapped in a sterile cover inserted into the vagina. It is a painless procedure. The transducer emits sound waves to produce images on the computer. 

Transabdominal Ultrasound

The transabdominal, as the name suggests, is an ultrasound of the abdomen. It is advised after six weeks of pregnancy. A gel is rubbed on the belly, which allows the sound waves to pass from the ultrasound probe into the uterus. The probe is moved over the abdomen to generate images of the sound waves reflecting off the baby.

Different Types of Ultrasounds 

Ultrasounds can be divided into many types. However, the three basic types are: 

2D Ultrasounds

All types of ultrasound use sound waves to generate pictures. In general 2D ultrasounds are used. It produces 2D images of the developing fetus. The images have outlines and are flat-looking.  

3D Ultrasounds

3D ultrasounds use the latest technology to produce clearer images. 3D ultrasound images are produced by piecing multiple 2D images from different angles.

It can be done transabdominally or transvaginally. 3D ultrasound is usually advised by the gynaecologist when more detailed images of the baby are required helping them detect facial abnormalities and neural tube defects.

On the other hand, parents like 3D ultrasounds mainly because it creates a three-dimensional image of the baby, which helps them see what their baby looks like. The images are clearer and better than 2D images.

4D Ultrasounds 

Similar to 3D ultrasounds, a 4D ultrasound offers excellent image clarity. However, it is different because the image that it produces is updated continuously, just like a moving image or a video. 4D ultrasounds show a video of movements of the baby in real-time such as sucking his thumb or opening and closing the eyes.

However, 3D and 4D ultrasounds for pregnancy are only performed to examine and diagnose suspected fetal or facial abnormalities like cleft lip or issues with the spinal cord. Hence, they are usually not part of the routine examination.

Do’s and Don’ts of a Pregnancy Ultrasound—How to Prepare for it?

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts for getting an ultrasound:

  1. During early pregnancy (first trimester), ultrasounds are done with a full bladder. Hence, the first thing you need to do when you go for your ultrasound is empty the bladder at least one and a half hours before examination time. Then consume fluid within that time before examination.
  2. Wear a two-piece outfit to make it easy for the sonographer to carry the examination without removing your clothes. 
  3. Unlike other types of ultrasound, during pregnancy ultrasound, you don’t need to fast. Therefore, you can normally eat before the fetal ultrasound.
  4. Don’t skip medication. Pregnant women can take all medications as usual. 
  5. There is no need for extra fluid intake or a full bladder for ultrasounds scheduled at the end of two trimesters or during your third trimester. 

It is important to take good care of yourself during pregnancy. Ensure regular checkups and get ultrasounds when needed and scheduled by the gynaecologist to ensure healthy fetus growth and avoid pregnancy complications.

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