Ultrasounds & Pregnancy
3 mins read

Ultrasounds & Pregnancy

Back in the day, women used to tie a pregnant woman’s wedding ring to a string and dangle it over her belly. If the ring rotated counterclockwise, the baby was a boy; clockwise, it was a girl. Plenty of other tests went on, too. Pregnant women would mix their urine with Drano and the color would predict the sex. Two problems arose with that one, according to Snopes.com. One, breathing Drano and urine fumes is not only unpleasant, it could do some harm to a pregnant woman. And two, no one could agree on what the colors meant. Now, at around 20 weeks, ultrasounds can tell you the sex of your baby, if you want to know.

What an Ultrasound is Like

The ultrasound procedure is painless and can be great fun for a mom- and dad-to-be. You may need to have a full bladder before the test to help get a better view of the baby. You’ll lie on the examination table and the ultrasound technician will rub some gel on your stomach. The technician will put an instrument called a transducer on your stomach, over the gel. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves, which enter the body and reflect off the baby. Images of the baby will then show on a monitor.

What the Ultrasound Detects

During the first trimester, the ultrasound can confirm a pregnancy and a heartbeat as well as the gestational age and any abnormalities such as an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb). In the second trimester, the ultrasound can diagnose whether the fetus is healthy and whether there are twins or multiples. It can also detect Down syndrome or birth defects. At 20 weeks, the sex can usually be determined, ending all the guessing and speculating. An ultrasound in the third trimester can observe fetal movements.


Although the ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive procedure, you should not have them more than is necessary because the long-term effects of repeated ultrasounds are unknown, according to the American Pregnancy Association. To be safe, only have an ultrasound when medically necessary.

3-D and 4-D

Newer ultrasounds called 3-D and 4-D ultrasound are available as of 2010. The 3-D ultrasounds produce a photograph-quality picture of the baby, which is useful in detecting birth defects. A 4-D ultrasound is a moving picture of the baby. The March of Dimes and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discourage the use of any ultrasounds at clinics that do them for non-medical reasons because untrained personnel could give wrong or harmful information.


Ultrasounds are not always right. For example, they may suggest that a birth defect is present when it’s not, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although ultrasounds are more accurate than old wives’ tale games, they can be wrong in predicting the baby’s sex. For the most part, however, ultrasounds will provide pregnant women with reassurance that her baby is developing and growing normally.

Photo Credit

  • funny pregnancy image by Roman Barelko from Fotolia.com
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