So you’re going in for your first ultrasound to check up on your new pregnancy. Checkups and appointments can be intimidating and confusing all at the same time. However, keeping you and your baby healthy and safe throughout your pregnancy is essential. So what do you need to know about your ultrasound?

The technology

Ultrasound, also called diagnostic medical sonography, is radiologic science imagining technology that uses soundwaves to create an image of what’s inside your body. This technology is used in a variety of diagnostic capacities, as it can detect growths or unusual objects within the body. An ultrasound can detect a higher level of detail with less radiation risk than x-ray. For this reason it is also used to examine the fetus during pregnancy.

Your technician

An ultrasound technician is a highly trained professional. They typically have a bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography which requires them to study human anatomy and physiology. So, you can rest assured that your ultrasound technician knows what they’re doing and what things should look like inside your body.

What they are not, however, is a physician. Ultrasound technicians typically cannot give you their opinion on what they see. A doctor will review the images and render a diagnosis.

Ultrasound for pregnancy

Typically, most expecting mothers have their first ultrasound between ten and thirteen weeks after conception. This appointment will help confirm how the fetus is developing and gauge the estimated due date. It will also tell you if you are expecting twins.

However, in some cases the doctor may want an ultrasound even earlier. If the expectant mother has a history of miscarriage, is experiencing bleeding or spotting, or other complications, then an early ultrasound may be ordered. In the case of an early ultrasound, the sonography might be conducted vaginally instead of over the belly. At this stage of pregnancy the fetus will be too small to be clearly detected by an external ultrasound. A vaginal probe places the sonographic device closer to the womb where more detail can be detected.

If your pregnancy has progressed to the eleventh week by the time of your first ultrasound, usually a combined screening will be suggested. This consists of a nuchal translucency ultrasound and a blood test. A nuchal translucency ultrasound measures the amount of fluid under the fetus’ neck to screen for likelihood of Down’s Syndrome. This is usually combined with a blood test to improve accuracy. The nuchal translucency ultrasound together with the blood test together have a 90% accuracy rate for predicting Down’s Syndrome.

Ultrasound is a wonderful modern tool that can assist in the early detection of many medical problems. And, it is especially beneficial in giving expectant mothers peace of mind by ensuring your pregnancy is developing properly.

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