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Pregnancy Ultrasounds

Pregnancy ultrasounds are one of the most reliable tests conducted after the initial confirmation of pregnancy is done through routine pregnancy tests that measure the presence of hCG hormone.

Ultrasounds are conducted at regular intervals to determine the growth and the position of your baby and are generally used by doctors to get an accurate picture about the progress of your pregnancy.
Pregnancy Ultrasounds

The risk of miscarriage can be avoided by conducting these ultrasounds at regular intervals.

Ultrasound scans are the highlight of any pregnancy.

It's very exciting and moving to "see" your baby in the womb, often moving his or her hands and legs.

Hospitals routinely offer at least two ultrasound scans during your pregnancy.

The first is usually when you're around 12 weeks pregnant and is sometimes called the dating scan, because it estimates when your baby is due (the estimated date of delivery, or EDD).

The second scan usually takes place between 18 weeks and 21 weeks. It's called the anomaly scan because it checks for structural abnormalities (anomalies) in the baby.

Pregnancy ultrasounds are conducted through the passing of sound waves that help in the creation of an image on an electronic monitor.

Pregnancy ultrasounds use high frequency sound that creates a darker or lighter image of the human tissues on a video screen.

These images are in the forms of dots and can be deciphered by qualified technicians only.

The dense tissues in a human body such as bones appear white on the electronic screen while soft tissues are a bit dark, and fluids appear as black on the screen.

Although having a scan in pregnancy is usually a happy event, be aware that ultrasound scans may detect some serious abnormalities, so you should be prepared for that information.

The dating scan and anomaly scan are offered to all women, but you don't have to accept them.

Your choice will be respected if you decide not to have the scans, and you'll be given the chance to discuss it with your maternity team before making your decision.

Types of Pregnancy Ultrasounds

Generally two types of pregnancy ultrasounds are used to check your pregnancy's growth and health of your baby.

The first type of ultrasound, the Trans-Vaginal Ultrasound is used in the first trimester of pregnancy to check the status of your cervix, uterus, gestational sac, embryo and other deep pelvic structures.

This type of ultrasound is a hand held probe that is inserted into your vagina and is generally of ten minute duration.

Trans-Abdomen Ultrasound is conducted in the second and the third trimester of pregnancy and is aimed at getting a clear picture of the fetus and the placenta.

This type of ultrasound can only be conducted when your bladder is full since a full bladder helps to distinguish the fetal parts.

Under this test, a lubricating gel is applied to your abdomen and then an instrument is placed over the gel.

This instrument helps in the formation of your baby's image on the video screen which can be deciphered by an expert technician who will then give you the details about your baby's positioning and growth.

The duration of this type of ultrasound is around 20-30 minutes.

Uses of Ultrasound Scan

A pregnancy ultrasounds scan can be used in several ways...
  • To check your baby's size. At the dating scan, this gives a better idea of how many weeks pregnant you are. Your due date will be adjusted according to the ultrasound measurements.
  • To check whether you're having more than one baby.
  • To detect abnormalities.
  • To show the position of your baby and the placenta. For example, when the placenta is low down in late pregnancy, a caesarean section may be advised.
  • To check that the baby is growing normally (this is particularly important if you're carrying twins or you have had problems in this pregnancy or a previous pregnancy).
  • To check for the sex of the baby sometimes.

How An Ultrasound Is Done

You may be asked not to go for a wee (urinate) before you have the scan. A full bladder pushes your womb up and this gives a better picture.

You then lie on your back and some lubricating gel is put on your abdomen.

A small device is then passed backwards and forwards over your skin, and high-frequency sound is beamed through your abdomen into your womb.

The sound is reflected back and creates a picture, which is shown on a TV screen.

Ask for the picture to be explained to you if the image seems confusing. It should be possible for your partner to come with you and see the scan.

Many couples feel that this helps to make the baby seem real for them both. You may be able to have a picture of your baby - there might be a small charge for this.

Are Pregnancy Ultrasounds Safe?

Ultrasound is relatively painless, safe and a hassle free procedure but there may be uncomfortable sensations due to pressure upon your bladder.

The conduction gel is stain free but can feel damp and cold to some extent. Otherwise, there are no harmful effects that can happen due to ultrasound rays.

There are no side effects of an ultrasound test and this should be done for ensuring smooth delivery and for making sure that your health is normal.

The 20 Week (Anomaly) Scan

This is a detailed ultrasound scan, usually carried out when you are between 18 weeks and 21 weeks pregnant.

The scan checks for major physical abnormalities in your baby, although it can't pick up every problem.

The anomaly scan is carried out in the same way as the dating scan, with gel on your tummy and the sonographer passing the ultrasound device backwards and forwards.

Sometimes, the sonographer doing the scan will need to be quiet while they concentrate on checking your baby.

However, they will be able to talk to you about the pictures once they've completed the check. Most hospitals welcome partners into the scan room. You need to check this with your hospital.

Is Your Baby A Boy or Girl?

If you want to find out the sex of your baby, you can usually do so during the 20 week scan.

Tell the sonographer that you'd like to know your baby's sex at the start of the scan. Be aware, though, that it's not always possible for the sonographer to be 100% certain about your baby's sex.

For example, if your baby is lying in an awkward position, it may be difficult or impossible to tell whether your baby is male or female.

Some hospitals have a policy of not telling parents the sex of their baby. If your hospital does not routinely inform parents about their baby's sex, you may be able to pay privately for a scan to find out.

Speak to your sonographer or midwife to find out more.

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