If we think back to pregnancy centuries ago, it is a wonder pregnant woman made it through. Parents cannot imagine a world without ultrasounds and fetal heart rate dopplers that let us know how their little one is doing in there. But, they did it. They made it through knowing very little about their baby until the day he/she was born.
In the world we live in today, there is very little parents can’t learn about their little bean while it is still inside. They can learn anything from physical traits to more serious medical conditions. This information goes a long way to help babies while they are still in utero and gives mom and dad a glimpse at their little one.
It is about a lot more than diagnostic as well, knowing things about the baby before they are born can help a lot of people form that bond that is so important. They are able to picture their baby and come up with the perfect name and nursery décor.
We went through all of the different forms of prenatal ultrasounds and tests to determine just what we can learn about our babies before they make their grand entrance into the world.
We live in this wonderful world that now allows us to find out our baby’s gender before they are even born. There was a time when women had to go through their whole pregnancy not knowing, and planning for either a boy or a girl. This is still a voluntary piece of information and mom and dad can still opt to be surprised.
This is normally done at the anatomy scan which is done when a woman is halfway through her pregnancy. It can also now be done by blood test letting mom find out even earlier than before. Get ready for all those gender reveal parties, they sure are fun!
The biggest piece of information that a lot of moms are dying to know is how their little one’s heart is doing. Is it healthy? When a woman first finds out she is pregnant, she waits anxiously for that ultrasound which will determine that there is a heartbeat. This is when the rate of miscarriage drops drastically.
During the mid-way scan, the doctor will take a good look at the heart to make sure it has all chambers and it is working properly. This can make a lot of women a bit nervous, but the good news is that because we have all of this medical technology problems can be detected early and a treatment plan can be made up.
Everyone fears that their baby will have a birth defect, and one of the most common defects is a cleft lip. This is when the lip does not form properly. If you want to see the good side of things or the silver lining, this is normally able to be fixed with surgery. A cleft lip will show up on an ultrasound informing mom and dad that they need to prepare for this.
Before ultrasounds were around, there was no warning. Babies would be born with a cleft lip and only then would a treatment plan be put in place. This would come as quite a shock and would hamper the birth date. Having a warning is sometimes a good thing, as it gives mom and dad more time to process.
This one is not a guarantee, but it can give mom and dad a bit of an idea. There are some instances where mom may need to get a growth scan done. If she has gestational diabetes, she will be monitored routinely to see the size of her baby. This is always fun. However, the problem lies in how correct this is.
Any growth scan is an estimation and should never be taken as absolute. These measurements can be off by as much as a pound or two. So, while it does give mom, dad and the doctors a rough idea on how the baby is growing, it is not for certain. It is clear enough to reassure minds that the baby is growing as it should be.
Many women will be offered testing at the 12-week mark in pregnancy. This is called a prenatal screening and it is used for many different things. It is normally used to determine if there is a risk factor for any chromosomal problems. This is a nerve-wrecking and exciting ultrasound. It is exciting because this is probably the first-time mom and dad get to see their little baby looking like a baby.
It is nervous because what the doctors are looking for is any fluid around the back of the neck. If there is a pocket of fluid, there can be a chance something is wrong with the baby. This test is not diagnostic, so mom will be sent for further testing to confirm. It can often be wrong.
Ultrasounds are really fun, as they give mom and dad a chance to see their little baby. It really leaves them amazed and in awe of their little baby forming in the womb. The most notifiable thing that mom and dad will see in these ultrasounds is the baby’s spine. It sticks out well in ultrasounds and that is a good thing.
The spine is one of the first things to develop in the womb, and it is a key indicator that the baby is healthy and well. The doctor will make sure the spine is straight and developing properly. Checking for conditions such as spina bifida and others. Mom and dad will be well reassured when they hear and see that the spine is perfectly fine.
While mom and dad are excited to learn that their baby is happy and healthy in there, they also want to know some physical features. They are desperate to learn what their baby looks like, and some ultrasounds can give them little hints. 2D ultrasounds, or the generic ones that mom and dad are used to, can tell us if the baby has hair.
Ultrasounds are able to pick up hair on the baby’s head and it is always fun to hear that your baby is going to be born with a full head of hair. If the old wife’s tale is true, maybe all of that heartburn was a good thing.
Nothing says how far our medical technology has come quite like the addition of 3D ultrasounds. They give mom and dad the ability to get probably the best look at their baby while it is still inside. This is not covered by any medical insurance, so mom and dad will have to pay if they want this experience. It is worth it.
This is when a lot of family fights start, as everyone tries to guess who the baby looks more like, mom or dad. They will start examining the nose, ears and chins to see what traits the baby got and from who. It is a truly special experience that everyone should try at least once.
For some reason, for as long as baby’s have been born, nurses have been confirming to the new parents that they have all ten fingers and toes. As if this was the universal sign of a healthy and happy baby. Parents do not need to wait any longer to find out if their little one has all of their digits.
Ultrasounds are so detailed now that mom and dad are clearly able to see all of the fingers and toe of their baby. All the technician has to do is zoom in close enough and there they will be. It will give mom and dad a lot of time to get ready to chew on those cute little toes.
Here is the thing, when a woman is pregnant, she knows where the baby is. She knows it is in the womb which is her uterus which is in her abdomen. Basic health class teaches us that, but we can now learn so much more about where the baby is. As mom gets further in her pregnancy, she can find out exactly where in her belly the baby is.
During an ultrasound, the tech may let you know if your baby is head down, meaning they are in the right position for birth. Or if they are breech, which may be monitored. If you are like me and get an amazing technician, they will tell you where every part of your baby is in your body, it is an amazing thing and helped me feel connected.
We talked a bit about prenatal testing earlier and that it can tell you if there is a chance that the baby has a chromosomal abnormality. One of the things they could be looking for is Downs Syndrome. This is the most common chromosomal abnormality and the chances increase as the mothers age does. If they think they see a flag in the early testing, mom will be sent for more testing.
The further testing can tell mom a lot more. It is still not definite, but it is pretty accurate. They didn’t always have this testing, so it came as a surprise when their baby was born with Downs Syndrome. Now, mom and dad can get a bit of a head’s up and can be better prepared for their baby’s arrival.
While we are still on the topic of serious conditions that the baby could be born with, we should mention now that they will also check to see if your baby has Trisomy 13 or 18. These are more chromosomal abnormalities that are direr. These conditions are fatal, and it usually means the baby will not survive very long past birth.
This is news that no one wants to hear, and it is very hard for parents to process. However, some parents find comfort in knowing ahead of time rather than being surprised on delivery day. It gives them time to process, prepare and plan for their next steps.
When we mentioned that mom and dad can now learn everything about their little baby before their baby is born, we really meant it. There is nothing that can not be seen through an ultrasound machine. OK, that may not be true, but there is very little we can not see. When mom and dad get their mid-way ultrasound, and even an earlier one they will see the arms and legs.
They will be able to take a good look and see that their baby does indeed have two arms and legs. They will get to see the bones and if they are developing properly.
While we are on the topic of arms and legs, mom and dad will also know if their baby is a mover. Chances are, mom already knows. She will feel all those kicks and punches all day long and she has a pretty good idea how active they are. The difference is when you have an ultrasound, you get to see how much they move.
Some babies move so much in utero that the ultrasound technicians have a hard time getting a good look at things. They may need to wait until the baby slows down. Other babies do not move as much, so the technician may have mom eat something sweet to get them moving.
This is an amazing picture, it captures such a sweet moment during an ultrasound. It is not photoshopped, this is a little fetus sucking its thumb while still in the womb. Babies do this, and it can be captured on ultrasound especially if mom is getting a 3D ultrasound done.
3D ultrasounds have the ability to show mom all sorts of wonderful things, including moments like this. It may take a moment like this for mom to really grasp the fact that there is a little real-life baby in there and she will be so excited to meet them. Chances are, if the baby sucks their thumb in the womb, they will continue to do so when they enter this world.
The only way a new baby eats is by sucking. Whether it be from the breast or the bottle, they have to be able to suck to take in food. When we realize this and really think about it, it only makes sense that they would start practicing this very necessary skill while in utero.
This is something a lot of ultrasounds will check for. The doctor will want to watch and see if your baby is swallowing the amniotic fluid. Don’t worry, the fluid is sterile, and the baby needs to swallow it as a way to practice living in the outside world. Mom and dad may even get a glimpse at how well their baby does this if they look at the right time.
The reason the anatomy scan is so important is because it really helps doctors make sure that the baby is growing the way it should be. Other than the lungs, which are the last organ to fully develop, every other organ should be healthy and in place. The soon-to-be parents will get to take a glimpse at their growing baby and all of their organs.
If a technician is comfortable giving out information, they may even take mom and dad on a tour of their little baby. They may point out where the stomach, kidneys and even liver are. It truly is a relief to hear that everything is fine and growing the way it should be.
As a woman nears the end of her pregnancy, she may be tired of all the tests and ultrasounds. As she gets closer to her due date, the doctor may want to do an ultrasound purely to check where the baby is in the womb. They are looking to make sure the baby is not breech. They want the baby to be head down. There is a lot of time for the baby to move, but near the end, the baby starts running out of room to flip.
If the baby is not in the head-down position, the doctor may want to talk to the parents about their options. A C-section may be the only option to get the baby out healthy. Parents didn’t always know this information before so were unprepared to handle it.
There is a slight chance that mom and dad can find out a little something about the personality of their little one during pregnancy. This is not scientific, and research is still being done to determine just how much we can learn about personality traits while in the womb. Mom and dad may be able to learn just how stubborn their baby is.
There is no bigger disappointment than going to that ultrasound and expecting to see some great images or the gender and being met with a stubborn baby. A baby who will not move its legs to reveal him or herself to mom and dad. It is even worse when mom has paid for a 3D ultrasound only for the baby to hide his face the whole time.
With all the medical advancements that have been made it is hard to believe that there may be things we don’t know. However, there are times when parents can’t really learn anything about their baby. Some countries don’t have this equipment, or the parents are not covered by insurance that pays for it and they just can’t afford it.
There are times when every test can be done, and they can still miss something. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Pregnancy is still so unknown and mysterious that all mom and dad can do is hold on for the ride and hope everything turns out fine.