Most of us probably find the thought of that first ultrasound of pregnancy to be a highly exciting one; anticipating to see the first sign of life inside and hearing that first heartbeat.
That first pregnancy ultrasound can be a very moving experience indeed!
What is an ultrasound? It is the transmission of high frequency sound waves through the uterus which reflect off the baby and form an image on the screen that you see.
So why are ultrasounds performed? The ultrasound is not performed just so you can have that first glimpse of your baby; it is performed for a number of very sound reasons:
- An ultrasound is a visual confirmation of the existence of a pregnancy.
- An ultrasound during pregnancy will check for the presence of multiples; whether it is a singleton or multiples[multiple pregnancy] that are conceived.
- In order to detect if there is a problem such as an ectopic pregnancy.
- For the baby’s heartbeat.
- Know exactly how far along the pregnancy is.
- If there is any abnormality in the pregnancy then to find out what that abnormality is.
- To check that the baby’s internal organs are developing well and on schedule.
- To check for risk of disorders such as down’s syndrome, spina bifida.
- To see that there is sufficient amniotic fluid surrounding the baby.
- To ensure that the placenta is properly placed and of appropriate size.
- To make sure that the baby is growing and putting on weight in accordance with expectations.
- The ultrasound of later pregnancy, will show the position of the baby, whether it is in the proper head down position.
When should the first pregnancy ultrasound be carried out? An ultrasound pregnancy scan is first carried out at 7 to 8 weeks, mainly to confirm the existence of the pregnancy, check for heartbeat and that all is well and to see whether there is a singleton or twin pregnancy.
The second scan is usually performed at about 18 to 20 weeks to check for any abnormalities. The placenta’s placement and size is also checked.
When you are 31 weeks pregnant or 32 weeks pregnant, the third scan is likely to be offered. This will help estimate what will be the due date and to confirm that the pregnancy is developing as expected.
The placenta’s placement and position is also verified. So long as all is as expected and baby is growing as per the required time line, there is no need for any further or more scans.
Though concerns have been raised from time to time about the safety of ultrasounds in pregnancy and their impact on the baby, no study has been able to demonstrate any problems that can be said to have occurred due to ultrasound scans. The benefits of ultrasounds seem to outweigh any perceived problems.