Most women know that routine checkups with their doctor are important to staying healthy. But when you are pregnant, your visits may take on a new significance. In addition to checking for any potential health problems, your doctor may also schedule an ultrasound scan of your fetus during one of these checkups. An ultrasound is a painless procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a visual image of the inside of the body. The type of scan will vary from provider to provider but in most cases, an ultrasound will show a moving picture that can also be paused and fast-forwarded for easier viewing. You’ll find out whether or not you are expecting a child with the help of an ultrasound. Here is what you can expect when you are having an ultrasound:
An ultrasound is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a visual image of the inside of the body. The type of scan will vary from provider to provider but in most cases, an ultrasound will show a moving picture that can also be paused and fast-forwarded for easier viewing. A technician will place a tiny probe against your abdomen to create the image. The ultrasound image is then beamed onto a computer where it is converted into a visible image. The ultrasound tech will discuss the image with you and your doctor, giving you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Ultrasounds are safe and painless, but the sound waves can sometimes cause a mild headache. An ultrasound can also show the size of an unborn baby, the position of the baby in the womb, and the health of the umbilical cord.
You’ll want to schedule an ultrasound during one of your first prenatal visits with your doctor. Ultrasounds can help your doctor make sure that you are pregnant and that the baby is healthy. Ultrasound exams are usually done between 12 and 16 weeks into the pregnancy. Past 16 weeks, an ultrasound is usually done to check for birth defects or other complications, since there are other tests that can do this. Some women choose to have an ultrasound earlier than 16 weeks. If you want to know if you are pregnant before a planned vacation, a family reunion, or a wedding, an ultrasound can help.
Having an ultrasound done earlier than 16 weeks won’t affect your due date. However, it may not be as accurate. If you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, an ultrasound done earlier than 16 weeks may show that you are actually not pregnant.
Before your ultrasound, you may have to stop taking certain medications. If you are on medications to prevent conception, you may have to wait until you finish those medications before you have an ultrasound. You may also want to ask your doctor if it is safe to take medications while you are pregnant. Certain medications, such as some antidepressants, can harm an unborn baby.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. You may also want to ask your doctor if you should practice holding your breath for a few seconds before the ultrasound. Doing this may help your doctor see better. If you are receiving an ultrasound for a specific reason, such as checking for a medical condition or finding out if you are pregnant, make sure to tell the tech. Some ultrasound machines have built-in sensors that will turn the scan off if they are aimed at someone who is holding their breath.
Most doctors will send you home with a copy of the ultrasound image. Be sure to take the print-out to your next appointment, so that you and your doctor can review it. You may also want to take a photo of the scan with your phone. If you feel comfortable doing so, you may want to post the scan on social media so that family and friends can see it too. Following a sonogram, you may feel some pressure to have an ultrasound at your next visit. But it is important to avoid pressure. Ultrasounds don’t reveal how often you should have one, and some women find them to be unhelpful.
There are other reasons that you may feel the need to have an ultrasound at a certain visit. Perhaps you are having a miscarriage, or you are in a high-risk pregnancy, such as having a baby with a genetic disorder.
Make sure to wear loose clothing and wear shoes that are easy to take off. You may also want to bring a bathing suit to wear in the water afterwards. If you have any concerns about the results of the ultrasound, such as your own worries or any questions your doctor hasn’t been able to answer, bring them up with your doctor. Ultrasounds can sometimes lead to false negative results. That is, a scan showing that there is no baby, but in reality, there is.
Because of this, you should always ask your doctor if the results of your ultrasound are normal. If you’ve been told you aren’t expecting a baby, you shouldn’t be upset. Ultrasounds are usually performed to determine the viability of a pregnancy, not the actual sex of the baby. If the test is negative, you have a good chance of being pregnant in the future.