First Pregnancy? What Should You Know About Ultrasounds?


If you're experiencing your first pregnancy, you may have already heard your baby's heartbeat on a fetal monitor or Doppler device. You're likely even more eager to see your child for the first time during a routine ultrasound, and to receive photo prints (or sonograms) of your child's face, feet, and other features. This procedure offers a variety of benefits, but you may still have some questions or concerns. Read on to learn more about what to expect from your first ultrasounds as well as answers to some questions you may have had about this procedure.

What is an ultrasound?

An ultrasound is a type of diagnostic tool that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a detailed 3D image (similar to sonar used by submarines to navigate through dark ocean waters).  Although ultrasounds are used to diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses, including heart disease, peptic ulcers and other digestive problems, and kidney issues, they are most frequently associated with pregnancy and fetal monitoring.

When should you get an ultrasound?

Unless you have previous risk factors that could cause you to seek an ultrasound sooner, you'll probably have an anatomy scan (to determine the sex of your baby, if you'd like to know) between weeks 18 and 20 of your pregnancy. This helps your doctor ensure that your baby is on-track with his or her growth rate, identify any potential problems, and allow you to see and learn more about your unborn child.

After you have your ultrasound, your doctor may meet with you to go over the sonograms and explain what they mean. Your doctor will use these photos to measure the approximate amount of amniotic fluid surrounding your baby, as well as examine the placenta and umbilical cord to ensure that both are healthy. If it looks like your baby is at risk of having his or her umbilical cord cut off the oxygen supply, your doctor may manipulate the position of your baby (while watching carefully on the ultrasound) until he or she is out of harm's way.

Is it safe to have multiple ultrasounds during your pregnancy?

Over the past few decades, several groups have raised concerns about the safety of having multiple ultrasounds during pregnancy, including "mall ultrasounds," which have continued to increase in popularity since the early 2000s. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this procedure causes any harm at all. Unlike X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs (all of which are restricted during pregnancy), ultrasounds do not involve radiation or magnetic forces, but just harmless high-frequency sound waves. 

What are some situations in which you may need more frequent monitoring?

There are a few conditions that can be identified at the 20-week ultrasound and may require some follow-up ultrasounds or fetal non-stress tests (NSTs). It's important to abide by your doctor's recommended schedule for all ultrasounds and NSTs -- if you have a high-risk pregnancy, missing a scheduled exam by even a day could be risky.

Premature aging of the placenta, which often leads to preterm birth and has been associated with stillbirth for babies over 40 weeks, can be quickly diagnosed at the 20-week ultrasound and monitored for the duration of your pregnancy. If your baby shows any signs of distress or the placenta becomes too degraded to effectively transmit oxygen, your doctors can help you quickly deliver to avoid any permanent harm. Without monitoring, you may have a much higher-risk pregnancy.

Another condition that may be identified at the 20-week ultrasound is abnormally low or high levels of amniotic fluid. Both conditions are relatively easy to treat (often, low amniotic fluid can be resolved simply by drinking more water and consuming water-based foods) but, if undiagnosed, could lead to serious complications later in pregnancy. Fortunately, both conditions are relatively rare, and with the combined skill of your physician and the ultrasound technician, should be quickly caught and successfully monitored to increase your odds of delivering a full-term, healthy baby.


30 June 2015

learning how to tend to sick and injured kids

My name is Dan and this is my blog. I am a recently singled father of three that is learning everything about caring for my kids as I go along. Before my wife passed, she was the one that took care of the kids when they were sick or injured, so I had a lot of learning to do and I had to do it as quickly as possible. I got together with some of the parents from my kids' school and they helped out quite a bit. I created my blog for two reasons - to keep my facts straight and to help other parents learn what I have struggled to learn.