A Doppler ultrasound is a very specific type of fetal ultrasound test. Fetal ultrasound is a diagnostic test that may be used to confirm your pregnancy; give your doctor an idea of your baby’s gestational age; assess the baby’s rate of growth; and identify possible congenital abnormalities or other problems. The Doppler ultrasound can also provide valuable information about your developing child’s blood flow.
More About Ultrasound
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines ultrasound as “energy in the form of sound waves.” When you receive an ultrasound exam, your doctor uses a device called a transducer to direct sound waves into your body. These sound waves bounce off of tissue, bones and body fluids to create an image on a television screen. Regular ultrasound can display images, but it cannot show blood flow, says Mayo Clinic hypertension specialist, Dr. Sheldon G. Sheps. Doppler ultrasound is also used in adult patients to detect problems such as blood clots, blocked arteries, peripheral artery disease and aneurysms.
Doppler ultrasound employs high-intensity sound waves to examine your baby’s blood flow, similar to speed radar, which ascertains how fast a motor vehicle is going. Doppler ultrasound can be used to determine the rate at which blood travels in the umbilical cord or between the placenta and uterus. It can also be used to listen to your baby’s heartbeat.
What It Tells You
A Doppler ultrasound tells your doctor if your baby’s blood flow is normal, or if your baby is under stress. By identifying high-risk pregnancies, doctors know which women will need extra assistance during labor and delivery. Doppler ultrasound decreases infant mortality by allowing a Caesarean section to be performed within just the right time frame, and also reduces the need for Caesarean sections or induction of labor, according to “Science Daily.”
A Doppler ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure performed in the same manner as a transabdominal ultrasound. A health care practitioner applies mineral oil or gel to your skin and moves the transducer along your abdomen. You may be advised to drink a substantial amount of water before this test because a full bladder allows better visualization of the uterus and fetus.
Doppler ultrasound may be performed on high risk groups, including women who’ve miscarried, those with hypertension or diabetes, and those carrying babies displaying limited growth. But according to “Science Daily,” use of Doppler ultrasound may invite unnecessary early intervention. University of Liverpool researcher Zarko Alfirevic advises: “It is quite possible that for some so-called high risk groups, fetal Doppler offers little or no benefit. Women with diabetes are one such group where fetal Doppler may, in fact, give false reassurance….Currently there is little agreement on what intervention should follow an abnormal Doppler finding.”