Ultrasound is a standard part of obstetrical care in the United States. It is used for women throughout every stage of pregnancy as a way to visualize the position and size of the unborn baby, or to see if there are multiples.
Obstetrical ultrasound care also helps the physician to learn more about the mother’s health and to identify many complications that cannot be detected through blood tests or other diagnostic methods. Ultrasound technology is safe and is performed within the exam room at the doctor’s office. The number of ultrasounds that you may need depends on many factors, including whether or not your pregnancy is high risk.
Types of Ultrasounds
There are two types of obstetrical ultrasounds. The first is a transvaginal ultrasound. In this procedure, a long, thin wand is covered with a latex sheath. Gel is applied to the sheath and the wand is inserted into your vaginal canal. This method of ultrasound is used when a you are in your first trimester. The ultrasound sends sound waves that deliver an image to the monitor. Our physician can use these images to date the pregnancy, count the number of fetuses, and find the positioning of where the fetus is implanted in the uterus.
In the second and third trimesters, an abdominal ultrasound can be performed. In this process, a gel is spread across your lower abdomen. The ultrasound device, shaped and sized like a computer mouse, is moved across the abdomen to see the uterus and developing baby.
Why Do I Need an Ultrasound?
Ultrasound in the first trimester is used to determine how many fetuses are in the uterus. This is important in monitoring a high-risk pregnancy. It is also used to estimate the date of conception. Knowing this date allows our doctor to plan for the baby’s estimated due date and know when the baby is past-term.
In the second trimester, an ultrasound is performed at about 20 weeks gestation to check fetal development and diagnose possible birth defects. During this examination of fetal anatomy, many parents are able to find out the sex of their babies.
In the late third trimester, an ultrasound may be performed to check the baby’s position in advance of induction of labor or natural delivery. The ultrasound can also be used at this stage to estimate the size of the baby and determine if you will be able to deliver the baby vaginally or if you will need a C-section due to large fetal size. At any time during pregnancy, ultrasound can be used to check on the baby’s viability.
Who is a Candidate for Ultrasound Services?
If you have had a positive pregnancy test or are pregnant, you are a candidate for an obstetrical ultrasound. If you are having complications in your pregnancy, such as bleeding or cramping, an ultrasound may be used to check the viability and heartbeat of the baby. If you suspect that you are pregnant, an ultrasound procedure may be used while waiting on the pregnancy test results.