A Mother’s Guide to Ultrasounds During Pregnancy
Ultrasounds are an invaluable tool during pregnancy that can be vital in ensuring the health of both you and your baby. Whether you’re having your first baby or your third, it’s important to know when to get an ultrasound and why.
What is An Ultrasound?
Ultrasounds, also known as sonograms, are prenatal tests that use sound waves to show a picture of your baby in the womb. A tool called a transducer uses sound waves to create ultrasound images of your baby on a computer. There are two main types of ultrasounds:
Transabdominal Ultrasound: When you think of an ultrasound during pregnancy, a transabdominal ultrasound likely comes to mind. In this procedure, an ultrasound technician covers your belly in a thin layer of gel to help better capture images of your baby. The ultrasound tech then moves the transducer across your belly to capture ultrasound pictures.
Transvaginal Ultrasound: A transvaginal ultrasound sends data to the ultrasound machine through a thin, wand-shaped transducer inserted into the birth canal.
Why Get An Ultrasound?
From confirming a pregnancy all the way to preparing to give birth, ultrasounds are a vital diagnostic tool. Ultrasounds help measure the growth and development of your baby to ensure that it is healthy and on track for delivery. Ultrasounds are safe for both the mother and the baby and can provide OB/GYNs with important information about your baby and pregnancy.
What Does An Ultrasound Show?
Ultrasound images provide your OB/GYN doctor with valuable information that can be hard and/or impossible to otherwise obtain.
Determining the age of the fetus and estimating the expected due date
Detecting the number of fetuses and the gender of the fetuses
Detecting certain birth defects/congenital abnormalities
Showing the position of the placenta
Measuring the amniotic fluid volume
And so much more
When Should I Get An Ultrasound?
When to get your first pregnancy ultrasound and how often to get an ultrasound during your pregnancy can vary from woman to woman. However, there are basic guidelines on the common types of pregnancy ultrasounds and when you should get them.
First Trimester Ultrasounds
Early Pregnancy Ultrasounds (6-8 Weeks)
Not every mother gets an ultrasound during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, a 6-week ultrasound, 7-week ultrasound, or 8-week ultrasound may be performed for a number of reasons. Early pregnancy ultrasounds can provide information such as:
Confirming a pregnancy
Confirming the viability of a pregnancy
Establishing gestational age
Determining the number of fetuses
Nuchal Translucency Ultrasounds (10-13 Weeks)
A 10-week ultrasound to 13-week ultrasound, known as a nuchal translucency ultrasound, is optional but can provide more information about your baby. An NC ultrasound measures the space at the back of a fetus’ neck. This can indicate early signs of Down syndrome and other congenital disabilities of the heart, abdomen, and skeleton. In addition to detecting fetal abnormalities, an NC ultrasound can also provide all of the same information as a 6-8 week ultrasound.
Second Trimester Ultrasounds
The most common time for a fetal ultrasound is during the second trimester. From 18-week ultrasounds through 22-week ultrasounds, ultrasound clinics can determine more detailed information about your baby.
Anatomy Scan (18-22 Weeks)
An anatomy scan (also known as a level II ultrasound) is a detailed pregnancy ultrasound that provides the most thorough check-up your baby will have before it is born. During the second trimester ultrasound, your provider will:
Check fetal heart rate
Look for any abnormalities in the brain, heart, kidney, and liver
Examine the placenta
Measure the amniotic fluid
Determine the baby's gender
Third Trimester Ultrasounds
Most routine pregnancies don’t require ultrasounds in the third trimester. However, high-risk pregnancies may require additional ultrasounds later into a pregnancy. If an earlier obstetric scan found abnormalities or you meet certain risk factors (high blood pressure, low levels of amniotic fluid, are over the age of 35, etc.) third-trimester ultrasounds may be necessary.
Expert, Personalized Obstetrics & Gynecology
The Gabrielson Clinic for Women is dedicated to providing the best women’s health services in Iowa. Throughout all stages of pregnancy, our OB/GYN clinic and expert women’s healthcare team are here for you!