If your doctor has ordered an ultrasound during your pregnancy, you may be concerned about what it means. Ultrasounds are ordered during pregnancy for a variety of reasons, some routine, some more serious. Understanding the procedure, reasons and benefits of having an ultrasound during pregnancy can help you relax when you go for yours.
According to the Mayo Clinic, several types of ultrasounds can be ordered during pregnancy. The standard ultrasound uses a plastic wand-shaped device that sends sound waves into your uterus and then receives sound waves back. When the sound waves bounce off the baby, uterine walls and other organs, they present a picture of what is going on inside. Having this type of ultrasound takes approximately 20 minutes.
A transvaginal ultrasound varies in time and can take about 30 minutes. The ultrasound tool–a transducer–is inserted into the vagina and records images from inside.
If your doctor believes there may be a problem with your fetus or your pregnancy, he may order a targeted ultrasound. This type of test can take several hours to complete and targets the areas of concern reported by the physician.
The last two types of ultrasounds ordered during pregnancy include a three-dimensional and a doppler ultrasound. A doppler test can zero in on very small changes in things such as blood cells. The three-dimensional test provides images that look like photographs. Parents love getting copies of these images.
Ultrasounds can confirm that you are pregnant and where the implanted embryo is located. They can also figure out how far along your pregnancy is as well as the baby’s gender. Ultrasounds may also be ordered to study your baby’s growth or to examine your placenta and uterus to be sure they are properly supporting the fetus. Ultrasounds can also detect what is causing certain symptoms, such as bleeding, during your pregnancy.
In 2010, pregnancy ultrasounds were typically ordered at the seven-week mark, according to the Mayo Clinic. These early ultrasounds are used to confirm the pregnancy and to be sure it is not an ectopic event, where the embryo has implanted itself in the fallopian tube.
A second ultrasound is also usually scheduled between 18 and 20 weeks. This time, the test scans for any birth defects and also more accurately charts growth and potential due date. A final ultrasound may be ordered at approximately 32 weeks if there is any suspicion of abnormalities or problems with fetal growth. Other ultrasounds may be ordered throughout the pregnancy if your doctor has additional concerns or if the pregnancy is considered high risk.
As of 2010, there were no definable risks associated with a properly administered ultrasound, according to the Mayo Clinic; however, other types of risks do exist, including a false diagnosis of birth defects or other issues.
What to Expect
The medical technician will squirt a liquid gel over your abdomen as you lay on an exam table. Once the gel is applied, the tech will then place a transducer on your abdomen and rub it back and forth across the skin. Sound waves will be transmitted back and forth between the transducer and your internal organs.
During a transvaginal ultrasound, the transducer is placed inside the vagina instead of rubbed across the outside of the abdomen.
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