These days, ultrasound examinations have become part and parcel of both the diagnosis of and the ongoing assessment during pregnancy.
How do they work? Ultrasound machines basically work by creating sound waves. These waves travel through the body and bounce back off different structures they encounter. The machine analyses these waves and turns them into a picture (the first picture of your soon to be bouncing baby!)
It’s worth asking, however, when and how many ultrasounds should you have during your pregnancy?
First of all, ultrasound has been proven to be safe in pregnancy. There are some potential side effects to do with the heating, vibration and formation of gas bubbles.
Reassuringly the type of examinations performed in pregnancy have not been shown to cause any problems for developing babies.
Typically there will be three “routine” ultrasounds during a pregnancy.
The first is usually performed soon after the pregnancy is confirmed to both reassure that your pregnancy is progressing and to confirm your due date.
The second scan is most commonly done in combination with some blood tests at around 11-14 weeks if you choose to screen for chromosomal anomalies.
The third scan is performed between 17-22 weeks to examine your baby’s structure in detail and confirm the position of the placenta.
Sometimes more scans may be recommended if there are concerns about your baby’s size (either concerns that baby is too small or too big), if there is a history of growth problems from a previous pregnancy, or if you have a medical condition which may affect baby’s growth.
Twin pregnancies will typically have more ultrasounds to monitor the growth of the twins.
While it is wonderful to see your baby move around on the screen (and the 3D images available today are fantastic for the photo album) like most investigations, it is best that any scan should be clinically indicated and be of the shortest duration possible.
The above information doesn’t take the place of a medical consultation so please seek further advice if you have further concerns.