The first ultrasound is a big milestone in any pregnancy. It verifies your pregnancy and really sets the stage for everything that comes after. When you hear the word ultrasound, the image of a pregnant lady in an OB office getting a look inside her belly immediately jumps into your mind. While you have likely seen many ultrasounds on TV, nothing compares to the experience of your first real ultrasound.
What is an ultrasound? Well according to the dictionary, it is a medical diagnostic test that uses high frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. The instrument measures the echos as the sound bounces back. These recordings form a picture on the screen that let's a doctor see exactly what is going on inside. In pregnancy, an ultrasound is used to painlessly and safely look inside a mother's womb to view the growing baby.
During most pregnancies, the first ultrasound is scheduled around the 8th week of pregnancy. This timing ensures the fetus is large enough and developed enough for the doctor to see it on the screen and validate a pregnancy. Typically anything before 6 or 7 weeks is too small to be seen.
This is one appointment Dad can't miss. So much happens during this first ultrasound. Both parents benefit from being in the room as the doctor takes the first peek. As a first time mom if you aren't quite sure what to expect, here is a list of the 12 things to expect from your first ultrasound.
12 Lots Of Emotions
Going into your first ultrasound you will be full of emotions. What will I see? What should I expect? Am I really pregnant? Is everything going to be OK? Especially for a first time mom, pregnancy can be stressful. You read every book. Post in all of the baby forums to ask your questions and find out what happened for other moms. You question everything the moment someone's experience doesn't match yours. Even if it's not your first rodeo, emotions still run high. There is a lot riding on your first appointment. Until you see the doctor and he or she tells you everything is fine, your mind plays games with you. For many, this first appointment helps to calm the emotions. Although, pregnancy is a roller coaster ride full of emotions. Get used to that feeling now. It's not going to end anytime soon. Probably not for the next 18 years.
11 Transvaginal Ultrasound
You envision your first ultrasound to be like what you see on TV. It's not! The baby is so small at the 8-week mark that your doctor will need to do a transvaginal ultrasound. It is a special type of pelvic ultrasound that uses a wand to view the baby and your "girl parts" from the inside. For me, it was a bit of a shock. It wasn't what I expected. I know I am not in the minority there. However, I assure you it is normal. It's a painless process. The wand is lubricated and inserted inside of you to get a closer look at what is happening inside your uterus. During this ultrasound, the doctor will be able to view your fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, uterus, and the baby! It's a one stop shop to make sure everything is progressing the way it should. While it may sound uncomfortable, I promise once you are on that table you really won't care one bit.
10 Getting Validation
Emotions run so high from the moment your first home pregnancy test shows positive! Happy, excited, nervous, and even scared feelings take over. Most moms end up taking multiple tests because they don't trust the first result they get. Once you let it start to set in, you begin to feel pregnancy symptoms. It's funny how that happens at almost exactly the same time. You start to let yourself believe it's true. However, there is this little voice inside your head telling you not to get too excited just yet. You worry that at your first appointment the doctor will say, "You're not pregnant." I know I started to think maybe I had made it all up. Hypochondria had set in and I wasn't really pregnant after all. So I counted down the days to that first ultrasound. I wanted that proof. That validation that I was in fact really pregnant.
9 A Due Date
During your ultrasound, the doctor will ask you to confirm the date of your last period. That information, and the measurements of the baby gathered during your ultrasound will give them an idea of the gestational age of your baby. Gestational age literally means how many weeks it has been since the mother's last menstrual cycle. Your doctor will estimate when you conceived and then determine when you will reach the 40-week mark to set a potential due date. With each ultrasound your doctor will reassess your due date and recheck the size of the baby. Even though this date is identified, it doesn't mean that will be your delivery date. Try not to get your heart set. Babies always have a mind of their own. Most moms find their baby likes to bake a little longer. Having this due date in mind makes those final weeks feel like torture.
8 How Many Babies
When the doctor starts the ultrasound all you want to hear is that you have a healthy baby. Notice I said "baby." At this stage of the game, most parents assume there is only one baby in there. During the first ultrasound the doctor can check to see how many fetuses they see. Some parents get the surprise of a lifetime when they find out they are having twins (or even triplets). According to Babycenter, as of 2013, twins accounted for 3 in every 100 births in the United States. Then 1 in every 837 births resulted in triplets (or more). This number has risen in the past few years due to hormonal changes as moms are waiting longer to have babies. They are more likely to release more than 1 egg at a time. The introduction of infertility drugs has also played a role as they increase the odds of multiple births.
7 Location Of The Baby
This is an important part of the ultrasound. So much so that it will be verified with each ultrasound you have after. In your first appointment, the doctor will be able to see exactly where the fertilized egg implanted itself in the uterus. Abnormal implantation can lead to pregnancy loss or other complications. If the egg is located outside of the uterus, that is called an ectopic pregnancy. In these cases, the egg has implanted itself in the fallopian tube, cervix, or somewhere within the abdomen. Regardless of the location, the egg must be removed. This is done either surgically or with medication so that it does not rupture and cause severe bleeding or shock. There are also chemical pregnancies. A chemical pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg does not completely implant in the uterus. They are not viable pregnancies. Each of these conditions are verified during the first ultrasound.
6 Seeing The Baby
You will get physical verification that your baby does in fact exist! When the doctor begins the ultrasound, you won't really know what you're looking at. The doctor will likely take a few minutes to look around and assess everything before sharing anything they see. The first thing they will do is point out exactly where your baby is on the screen. It will likely look like a little jelly bean not resembling a human form at all being just 8-weeks old. Most baby sites will tell you that your baby is just the size of a kidney bean. As your doctor points out what they see on the screen it may not look like much, but you will be so excited in the knowledge that you are looking at your baby! There is a sense of relief with that news. It's what you've been waiting for. Proof you can see with your own eyes.
5 Hearing A Heartbeat
For every viable pregnancy the heartbeat will be confirmed. Your doctor can routinely verify a heartbeat as early as 6 or 7 weeks old. It can actually be seen on the screen during your ultrasound. This is typically one thing your doctor can point out that actually makes sense to you as you see it. They will measure the heart rate on the screen to ensure it is beating in the right range. Your doctor should even be able to turn on the sound so you can hear it for yourself. This is a huge milestone for any parent! More validation that this is really happening. There is a baby growing inside of you. At every appointment you have, your doctor will use a fetal doppler to listen to the baby's heart and measure how fast it is beating. Over the next 9 months this sound will be very comforting to hear.
4 Assurance Everything's On The Right Track
Every mom worries about how things are progressing when they find out they may be pregnant. Am I really pregnant? Is what I'm feeling normal? Is the baby going to be OK? Will there be a problem? This is all natural. Every pregnant woman feels this way. It is a big reason why women look forward to their first ultrasound appointment. That peek inside, the confirmation from the doctor, it all provides a level of comfort and validation that everything is progressing the way it should be. When you walk out of that appointment, you will feel a sense of instant relief. All of your worry will disappear (at least for a little while). You can let yourself get excited now and believe that you are in fact pregnant. The most difficult part is going to be keeping it a secret until you are ready to share your news with the world.
3 Begin Bonding
The knowledge that you have a baby growing inside of you makes you pause and take notice. As you allow yourself to begin to imagine what they will be like when they are born, you begin to bond. The feeling that you are pregnant takes over and becomes reality. Throughout the day you think about your baby. Naturally as your belly grows you find yourself placing your hands over the baby. It's a special time for a mother to feel her maternal instinct start to kick in and come alive. Hearing their heart beat. Feeling those first flutters as they begin to kick and move. It's such an exciting time. You begin to pick out names and create a nursery space. This baby slowly begins taking over the center of your universe and they haven't even been born yet. The feeling of unconditional love has started to build.
2 First Photograph
Your prize at the end of your first ultrasound is the first photograph of your baby! That little jelly bean will proudly be displayed on your refrigerator door or blasted across Facebook for the world to see. It will hold so much emotion and create such a special memory of the first time you saw your baby. With each ultrasound after, you will hope that the ultrasound tech takes good pictures because these are the mementos that you love to hold onto right now! They will be featured in your baby books. Framed and placed in the baby's room. Proud doesn't even begin to describe the emotions you feel inside. You're really not sure how it could get much better. Well until the baby is born and you can replace that photo with a real picture. I'm not sure how moms survived before the use of regular ultrasounds. I couldn't imagine waiting to see my baby.
1 Likely To Forget A Question
Every mom is told to prepare a list of questions for the doctor during their first ultrasound. It's inevitable that in the excitement of the moment you will forget one (or all) of those questions. The doctor will be showing you all of the amazing things you don't see on the screen. Then they will turn to you and ask, "Do you have any questions?" Your mind will go completely blank! Even if you wrote your questions down you will forget you even brought a list with you. However, the moment you leave the appointment, those forgotten questions will reappear in your mind. I'd like to to think this is just the start of pregnancy brain. Unfortunately, this forgetfulness will likely stick around for a really long time. Get used to it! You will lovingly begin to refer to it as mom brain. Thank god for the pregnancy forums out there. All of the answers to your questions can easily be found right at your fingertips.