A pregnancy ultrasound is a safe and effective way of looking inside the womb of a pregnant woman. An ultrasound will use sound waves to transfer pictures of a fetus to a monitor at the bedside. A transducer is used on the abdomen and a full bladder is usually required to raise the uterus up closer to the surface of the abdomen for a better view. This is a non-invasive way to check on the condition of the fetus and in a lot of cases, to find out if you are having a boy or girl!
There are several reasons why your doctor may order an ultrasound for you. One reason is to detect and confirm pregnancy in the early stages. By measuring the fetus, the doctor will have a more accurate idea of your due date and he will also be able to determine that the fetus is in the cavity of the uterus.
Another reason for a pregnancy ultrasound may be due to vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy. If you experience cramping and bleeding early in pregnancy, your doctor may order an ultrasound to check for a visible heartbeat. This can be detected as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. If no heartbeat is detected and the gestational sac is malformed, it probably indicates a miscarriage.
When the doctor uses an ultrasound to determine gestational age, he uses several different measurements. The first measurement he will look at will be the crown to rump length. This gives a very accurate estimation of the gestational age.
The next measurement will be the diameter between both sides of the head. This measurement is taken at around 13 weeks.
The doctor will then look at the femur length of the fetus. This is the longest bone in the body and helps to give an accurate estimate of gestational age and growth.
Another important aspect of using a pregnancy ultrasound is to diagnose fetal abnormalities. The ultrasound can pick up abnormalities such as, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, dwarfism and other congenital defects. This will prepare the doctor and the parents in the event an abnormality is found. Sometimes, depending on the condition, special equipment will be needed in the delivery room. Knowing what to expect ahead of time helps everyone to be prepared.
A new and exciting development in the ultrasound is the 3-D and 4-D ultrasound. This type of ultrasound can transfer images to the monitor and they can be processed into 3-D images. You are able to see your babys features and movements. These ultrasounds are also able to pick up smaller defects, such as cleft palates.
If this is your first pregnancy, do not be alarmed when your doctor orders an ultrasound for you. This is normal practice and it will give you the unforgettable experience of seeing your baby for the very first time. Bring your partner along and cherish the moment when you first lay eyes on your baby through your pregnancy ultrasound.