From the moment that little stick confirms your pregnancy, you are filled with an enormous range of emotions: excitement, terror, speculation, wonder, happiness, and everything in between. Pregnancy is an incredible time for women as their bodies adapt to the massive changes going on within, and they prepare for bringing a new life into the world.
One of the most exciting times throughout pregnancy is when we get to catch a glimpse of our little one through the help of an ultrasound. Nothing makes pregnancy feel more real than seeing your little bean on the ultrasound monitor and hearing their heartbeat. Here are 10 things about ultrasounds you didn't know, and should.
10 Your First Ultrasound Will Be At Around 6 Weeks
While the home pregnancy tests and even blood tests from your doctor's office can definitely give you that positive result, they can't tell you much more than that. Your first ultrasound will usually be within the first few weeks of you finding out that you're pregnant, somewhere around the 6-8 week mark.
During this ultrasound, your doctor will be able to determine exactly how far along you are and what your due date will be. They do this by measuring the fetus from the top of its head to its bottom. This will also give your doctor a chance to rule out an ectopic or tubal pregnancy and determine whether or not you're carrying multiples.
9 You Will Need To Have A Full Bladder
At this point in the pregnancy, it shouldn't be too difficult to arrive with a full bladder! But, for this ultrasound, because your baby is still very tiny and only growing millimeters each day, it is difficult to get a proper scan. Because an ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image, sound bounces off liquid better, so a full bladder will help to create a clearer image.
Another option that your doctor may do is a transvaginal ultrasound. Don't panic, it's not as scary as it sounds! This is where they insert a thin wand into the vagina, and this wand sends out high-frequency sound waves to your uterus, which in turn bounce off the fetus.
8 Most Doctors Recommend 2 Ultrasounds In An Average Pregnancy
For an average pregnancy, most doctors will recommend two ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy. This is not counting that first ultrasound to determine the due date, so including that, you would receive three in total. The first official pregnancy ultrasound is usually done around 12-14 weeks, just at the end of your first trimester.
This ultrasound is called a Nuchal Translucency ultrasound, and it is to test for any genetic abnormalities. It is usually after this ultrasound that people begin to share their happy news, as you will be safely out of the first trimester, you will have seen your baby on the ultrasound monitor, and you will have heard their heartbeat.
7 Your Second Trimester Anatomy Scan Will Be 20-45 Minutes
The second ultrasound that you will receive during your pregnancy is usually referred to as the anatomy scan ultrasound, and this is usually completed around the 20-week mark. This ultrasound will usually last anywhere from 20-45 minutes, and it is a great opportunity for you to get a good look at your little bean.
During this ultrasound, your doctor will be checking a variety of things, including assessing the baby's growth, checking for all of the organs' development, monitoring the heart rate, examining the placenta, and checking the amniotic fluid level. And yes, this is the opportunity where you can find out your baby's gender (should you wish)!
6 If You Are High-Risk, Your Doctor May Order More Ultrasounds
If you are considered to be a high-risk pregnancy, then your doctor may request for you to have additional ultrasounds to ensure your baby is on track with their development. You might be considered high-risk if you are over 35 years old, have high blood pressure, have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, or have a family history of birth defects.
Between 14-20 weeks, you may also be sent for an amniocentesis, which is an additional test that looks for the possibility of genetic abnormalities. In this procedure, they will take a sample of the amniotic fluid by inserting a needle into your belly. This procedure is relatively safe, with a small chance (0.5%) of miscarriage.
5 Doctors Caution Against Unnecessary Ultrasounds
While there have been many facilities that have opened recently offering 3D and 4D ultrasounds for a fee, most doctors caution against them. Both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine advise doctors and patients to only use ultrasounds when deemed medically necessary.
While there is seemingly little risk to having ultrasounds completed, an ultrasound is still exposing the fetus to additional forms of energy, so it is advised to only do so when necessary.
4 Ultrasound Technicians Cannot Give A Lot Of Detail
Most often, when you are having an ultrasound done, it is an ultrasound technician who completes the testing and passes their findings on to the doctor, who will then sit down with you and reveal the results. Because of this, there is very little the ultrasound technician can disclose to you during your appointment.
This can be very frustrating for excited parents who have many questions to ask. Be patient, enjoy seeing what you can on the ultrasound, and save your questions and concerns for your follow-up appointment with the doctor. The technician will happily point out parts of your baby and help you to understand what you are looking at in those blurry ultrasound images, but that's the extent of their sharing.
3 If You Have Gestational Diabetes, You May Be Sent For An Extra Ultrasound
If you happen to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, there will be some additional testing done to ensure the safety of your baby. Your blood sugar levels will have to be monitored, and you will have to stick to a fairly strict diet.
You may also be sent for an additional ultrasound. This ultrasound will be measuring blood flow and blood circulation to ensure that your baby is receiving enough blood, as this can sometimes be a complication with GD.
2 If You're Past Your Due Date, You May Get One More Ultrasound
You've reached 40 weeks! Congrats! But...where's the baby? Still snuggled peacefully inside, not quite ready to brave the big new world. While it can be very frustrating, and very uncomfortable, to go past your due date, there's a silver lining here. Your doctor might send you for an additional ultrasound to keep an eye on how your baby is doing.
This ultrasound will check the amniotic fluid levels to make sure there's still enough to keep baby safe and happy, and they will check the baby's heart rate. They will also check on how the placenta is doing, making sure that it is still healthy and checking to ensure it has moved away from the cervix.
1 If Your Baby Is Lazy, You Might Need To Help Them Out!
Sometimes, when baby is snuggled happily in their cozy little place, they don't really want to move around a whole lot, and this can make it tricky if the ultrasound technician is trying to get a better angle or see something specific.
If your baby isn't too inclined to move around the way you need them to, your doctor might request that you get up and move around to "wake them up." Or you might be given a small glass of apple juice, as the sugar content can give baby a little boost and encourage them to move around a bit.