Ultrasound In Early Pregnancy
Having an ultrasound in early pregnancy is something most pregnant women look forward to with eager anticipation.
Once you have discovered that you are pregnant you start trying to get your head around the fact that you are growing a tiny life inside of you. Yet it is easy to feel like the pregnancy test you took was wrong and you are imagining any symptoms because you can’t actually see what is happening inside you!
The ultrasound in early pregnancy is your first glimpse at what is happening in your womb and the little life that is forming. It is what makes the whole thing real, and not just your imagination.
Despite this being an extremely joyful and exciting time, many women do not know what to expect from their ultrasound in early pregnancy and are also quite anxious at the thought of any problems being discovered.
This page should help you to know what to expect and what is expected of you so that you can get the most out of your first encounter with your tiny little baby.
What Is An Ultrasound Scan?
During an ultrasound scan, high-frequency sound waves are sent through your abdomen into your womb. The sound waves bounce off your baby and the echoes that come back are translated into an image that you can see on a screen.
Your baby’s bones will return the biggest echoes, so these will appear the clearest on the screen in white. Flesh is a bit softer and so the echoes are smaller and this isn’t quite so clear in grey. The sound waves pass through the amniotic fluid so this isn’t picked up and is black on the screen.
The ultrasound in early pregnancy is carried out by a radiographer or a sonographer (a midwife who is trained in ultrasound) and will enable them to check and do various things:
1. Your baby’s movements and position
2. The position of the placenta in your womb
3. That your baby has a heartbeat
4. That your baby is developing normally
5. Whether there is more than one baby
6. That your baby’s organs are all normal
7. The size of the baby and give you an accurate due date
8. Measure the fluid at the back of baby’s neck to assess the risk of Down’s syndrome (nuchal translucency scan)
Ultrasounds can also be used to measure your baby’s rate of growth over several scans if needed, detect an ectopic pregnancy and also find out the cause of any bleeding you may be having.
Routine ultrasound scans are generally done between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy and then again at around 20 weeks.
Your midwife may refer you to have an earlier ultrasound at around 6 or 7 weeks if there are complications or you are bleeding or getting pain.
What To Expect
For your ultrasound in early pregnancy your womb is still positioned down in your pelvis. In order for your sonographer to be able to get a good picture you will need to fill your bladder so that it pushes your womb up out of your pelvis. So make sure you drink plenty of water before you go in for your scan.
The sonographer will put some gel on your tummy, this can be a bit cold, and then move a hand-held device called a transducer over the skin of your lower abdomen to pick up the image of your baby.
The ultrasound in early pregnancy shouldn’t hurt at all, but may be a little bit uncomfortable because of your full bladder. The sonographer may push down a little on your tummy to get a clearer picture. Some may worry that this is a bit rough, but your baby is well protected and won’t be harmed by this.
If your baby is still down in your pelvis or you are overweight then your sonographer may struggle to get a clear picture. If this is the case they may want to do a vaginal scan. In this case they will use a transducer that is shaped to fit comfortably into the vagina and will use gel so that it slides in easily.
Although the thought of having a vaginal scan may fill you with abject horror, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Your modesty is protected by a towel over your legs and the sonographers are very experienced in doing scans this way. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable so long as you relax.
As well as doing all of their checks, the sonographer will usually take a snapshot of your baby that can be printed off for you to take home. Some hospitals charge for this.
Most hospitals will allow a couple of people to come into the room with you, although you might want to check with the hospital first.
Can I Find Out The Sex Of My Baby?
At the ultrasound in early pregnancy at around 12 weeks, it is usually too soon to find out whether you are expecting a boy or a girl.
Some hospitals have a policy of not telling you whether it is a boy or a girl; this is because they can sometimes get it wrong. However, if the hospital is agreeable, then you can normally find out at your 20 week scan. Sometimes, though, the baby will be lying in an awkward position, making it impossible to see which sex it is.
Is Ultrasound Safe And Do You Have To Have It?
This method of scanning babies has been used for about 30 years and there have been no known side affects or links to any problems that can occur in babies and children, so having an ultrasound in early pregnancy is safe.
However, if you really don’t want to have an ultrasound then you don’t have to have one. You will need to make your wishes clear to your midwife and they will likely explain to you why they feel you should have one, but the decision ultimately lies with you. Bear in mind though, that this method of scanning babies has proven invaluable in detecting and preventing potential problems.
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