Learning Resources

Ultrasound During Pregnancy

Ultrasounds have become a regular - and very welcome - part of prenatal care. Early in pregnancy, ultrasounds are used to confirm the fetal heartbeat and a uterine (as opposed to ectopic or tubular) pregnancy. Later, ultrasounds screen for fetal growth, placenta location and umbilical cord, as well as the baby's general health and anatomy. Ultrasounds can also be useful for checking the length of your cervix, if there is any suspicion that you may be in preterm labor.

How An Ultrasound During Pregnancy Is Done

Ultrasound examination is often performed using a wand or transducer over the abdomen (transabdominal). A gel is rubbed onto your belly and then a wand called a transducer, which emits sound waves, is rubbed over the area. otherwise known as your baby) to produce an image you can see on a computer or video screen. You'll be able to watch along with your practitioner (though you'll probably need help to understand what you're seeing) take home a small printout as a souvenir.

If you're getting an ultrasound before week 6 or 7, your practitioner may instead perform a transvaginal, or internal, ultrasound. The same principle is at work, but a small, long transducer wand, which is first covered with a condom-like The practitioner will move the wand within the vaginal cavity to scan your uterus. This allows your practitioner to see the fetus even before it's detectable on a transabdominal ultrasound.

The procedures can last from five to 30 minutes and are painless, except for the discomfort of the full bladder necessary for the first-trimester transabdominal exam. They can be somewhat uncomfortable if the sonographer needs to press hard on your abdomen to see a particular part of your baby more clearly.

The Difference Between Sonogram And Ultrasound
Though the words sonogram and ultrasound are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction. Ultrasound is the actual technology of using sound to produce sonogram pictures, including the one that you'll take home.


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