Everything You Need to Know About Ultrasound During Pregnancy

Pregnancy Ultrasound and Sonogram: Are They the Same Thing?

Although often used interchangeably, sonogram and ultrasound are not one and the same thing. An ultrasound can image the child in the woman’s womb and her reproductive organ. It is the technology of using high-frequency sound waves to reproduce images of the developing child. There is no set amount of ultrasound that a pregnant woman needs to do. In fact, the average number of ultrasounds varies with each pregnancy. Excluding the standard ultrasound, there are a number of ultrasounds available, such as the 3-D ultrasound, 4-D ultrasound and the fetal echocardiography.

The images produced by the ultrasound tests are called sonogram pictures and are the pictures that you take home with you. A sonogram can help monitor normal fetal development and screen for any potential problems.

How Many Ultrasounds Does a Mother Need During Pregnancy?

Even though ultrasound technology is safe for both the mother and the child, doctors do not encourage the use of ultrasounds when there is no medical reason or benefit to gain from it. As it turns out, only a couple of ultrasounds are needed during pregnancy.

Why Is It Important to Get a Pregnancy Ultrasound Test?

There are a variety of reasons for which doctors order that an ultrasound test be done during pregnancy. Ultrasounds are often ordered for medical reasons, that is when the healthcare practitioner detects a problem in a previous ultrasound or when there’s a problem with the blood test. Ultrasounds can also be ordered for nonmedical reasons, such as to determine the sex of the baby or to produce images for the parents.

During the First Trimester of Pregnancy

The first trimester of pregnancy spans the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and is the period during which the baby’s organs develop. During that period, an early ultrasound is a routine part of prenatal care. It is usually done at 6 to 9 weeks and gives the parents a first glance of their tiny baby bean.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, ultrasounds are generally used to:

  1. Confirm the pregnancy
  2. Check for multiple pregnancies, that determines the number of fetuses
  3. Determine the gestational age of the baby
  4. Estimate a due date by measuring the fetus (if done after the first trimester, the ultrasound measurements of the fetus tend to be less accurate)
  5. Check the fetal heartbeat
  6. Ensure that the pregnancy is happening in the uterus (where it’s supposed to take place)
  7. Rule out a tubular or ectopic pregnancy (an ectopic pregnancy is when the fetus does not attach to the uterus)
  8. Examine the placenta, uterus, ovaries, and cervix
  9. Diagnose a miscarriage
  10. Detect any abnormal growth in the fetus

During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy

Midway through your pregnancy, another ultrasound is usually performed. Routine second-trimester ultrasounds are called a level 2 ultrasound and is conducted to get a detailed anatomy scan. Most practitioners perform these ultrasounds in 2D and reserve the more detailed 3D and 4D ultrasounds for only when medically necessary. Generally, the 3D and 4D ultrasounds are done to closely examine a fetus for a suspected anomaly.

2D ultrasounds are usually done around the 18th to the 22nd week of the pregnancy. This type of test is done by a trained sonographer in a hospital or specialized clinic, where the healthcare practitioner can have access to equipment that is more sophisticated.

The second trimester (12 to 24 weeks) ultrasound will give the parents and the doctor a clear picture of the overall health of the baby and the pregnancy. It’s a way to:

  1. Monitor the growth and position of the fetus (that determines whether the baby is in a frank breech, a complete breech, a transverse lie, cephalic, or optimal position)
  2. Find out the baby’s sex (if you want to know)
  3. Confirm multiple pregnancies
  4. Check the placenta for any potential problems, such as placenta previa (which is when the placenta covers the cervix) and placental abruption (which is when the placenta separates from the uterus prior to delivery)
  5. Check all the major organs
  6. Examine the fetus for abnormalities, blood flow problems, congenital abnormalities, birth defects or Down syndrome (this can normally be done between 13 and 14 weeks)
  7. Measure the levels of amniotic fluid
  8. Determine if the fetus is getting enough oxygen
  9. Diagnose problems with the ovaries or uterus, such as pregnancy tumours
  10. Measure the size of the baby and the length of the cervix
  11. Confirm an intrauterine death
  12. See how baby’s developing see their hands, feet, face and tiny organs like the stomach and kidneys

Other Types of Tests Required During Pregnancy

If the mom-to-be is considered high-risk, she may need additional ultrasounds over the course of her pregnancy. There are a few other tests that might also need to be done, such as:

  1. Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)
  2. Amniocentesis
  3. Nuchal translucency screening
  4. Biophysical profiles

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