When a woman finds out that she is pregnant, the whirl of emotions that she goes through cannot be explained in words. It is indeed a big moment for the couple who view this as the next phase of their life in which their family would expand and they would be given new responsibilities and new things to look forward to. There is no denying that happiness cannot be contained at such times. Pregnancy is a sensitive phase, where great care has to be taken to ensure that both the mother and baby remain safe. There are quite a few measures that you would have to take so that no complications arise during pregnancy.
The first thing that a couple needs to do upon finding out about pregnancy is to book an appointment with a gynecologist. It is quite important that you undergo regular consultations with the doctor so that he can ensure that your pregnancy is progressing in a smooth manner and there is no reason to worry. There are a number of tests that are done by doctors to monitor the progress of your pregnancy. One of the tests that is said to be among the most important and that is performed at regular intervals throughout the pregnancy is the ultrasound. It is this test that we are going to discuss in detail.
Table of Contents
- A Brief Introduction
- The Information Attained Via an Ultrasound
- The Purpose of an Ultrasound in the First Trimester
- The Purpose of an Ultrasound in the Later Course of Pregnancy
- Duration of an Ultrasound
- Where to Get the Ultrasound Done from
- Side Effects to be Aware of
- If a Problem is Detected
- Final Words
A Brief Introduction
A prenatal ultrasound, which is also called sonogram, is a noninvasive test. It basically makes use of sound waves to create a visual image of the pelvic organs, including the baby, placenta, and uterus. Via this test, the doctor is able to acquire vital information about the health of the baby and the progress of your pregnancy.
The first ultrasound is usually done around the 8th week of pregnancy. The purpose of an 8 week ultrasound is to confirm the date and duration of the pregnancy. The sex of the baby can be found out by the ultrasound that is done in the 16th to 20th week of pregnancy.
Ultrasound is also done with genetic tests for nuchal translucency scan that is meant to detect Down’s syndrome, chorionic villus sampling, and amniocentesis. If there are any complications expected in the pregnancy because the mother is diabetic, hypertensive, or suffering from any other medical condition, the interval between the ultrasounds is shortened.
The Information Attained Via an Ultrasound
With the help of an ultrasound, the medical practitioner finds out some essential information about the baby. He checks the heartbeat of the baby and if it sounds normal, the number of beats in a minute are counted to ensure that there are no abnormalities. The size of the baby is also measured to ensure that he is the right size for the gestational week. For instance, if the baby is bigger or smaller than the gestational age in the 8 week ultrasound, it is probable that the timing of the pregnancy has not been done in the right way. If the practitioner has any reason to believe that the baby is not growing at the desired rate, he will probe further to find out more. In the 8 week ultrasound, it is also checked whether it is a twin pregnancy or a singleton.
The location of the placenta is also checked to ensure that it is not covering the cervix, which can cause bleeding in the later stage of the pregnancy.
The amount of amniotic fluid present in the uterus is also assessed. Too much or too little amniotic fluid can pose a problem in pregnancy. If such a finding is positive on the ultrasound, a complete workup needs to be done to find out more about the cause of the problem. The anatomy of the baby is also checked in the ultrasound to find out if the baby is suffering from some congenital anomaly.
The Purpose of an Ultrasound in the First Trimester
There are several reasons that a practitioner might opt for an 8 week ultrasound, apart from dating the pregnancy.
Vaginal bleeding in the early course of the pregnancy might
trigger the suspicion of miscarriage, and the practitioner would ask for an ultrasound to be done to confirm this. The heartbeat of the baby is visible on the ultrasound by six weeks of pregnancy, so if the baby’s heartbeat can be heard on the 8 week ultrasound, you can be certain that the pregnancy is progressing at the desired rate.
Sometimes, there is an error in dating the pregnancy. Thus, if a heartbeat is not heard at the 8th week of pregnancy, it is advisable to repeat the test a week later before deducing that something is wrong.
2. Ectopic or Molar Pregnancy
Vaginal bleeding with tenderness can point to ectopic or molar pregnancy. If it is a case of ectopic pregnancy, the embryo would not be in the uterus, and the doctor would have to determine the location of the embryo. In the case of molar pregnancy, there is an abnormal placental tissue present in the uterus that is without a viable baby. On the ultrasound, it would appear as a cluster of grapes.
3. When the Gestational Age is not Confirmed
Sometimes, the woman does not remember the date of her last menstrual period. Thus, dating the pregnancy becomes a difficult task. The 8th-week ultrasound can be done to find out more about her gestational age. The ultrasound is said to provide more accurate results rather than relying on the date of the last menstrual period.
The Purpose of an Ultrasound in the Later Course of Pregnancy
Now that we have discussed the purpose of an 8th-week ultrasound, let us shed some light on the reasons for the test being done in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Complaints of vaginal bleeding in the later stages of pregnancy can be caused by different complications in pregnancy. An ultrasound will allow the practitioner to find out the cause.
2. Monitor Growth of the Baby
Sometimes, in the later stage of pregnancy, the practitioner might have doubts that the baby is not growing at the rate that he should be growing at. Thus, to assess the growth, an ultrasound might be ordered, which will allow the practitioner to measure certain parts of the body to monitor his growth.
3. Amniotic Fluid Level
If there were any abnormalities in the amniotic fluid level in the early stage of pregnancy, regular ultrasounds would be ordered in the later stages to monitor the condition of the baby.
4. Plan for C-section
An ultrasound might reveal information that would allow the practitioner to decide if a C-section is warranted. The situations in which C-section might have to be planned include breech presentation of the baby, the blockage of the passage of the baby through the placenta, or the baby is too large.
Duration of an Ultrasound
An ultrasound test tends to take about 15 to 20 minutes. If a more detailed evaluation needs to be done, the time might stretch to 30 to 90 minutes.
In the current times, the 8th-week ultrasound is done via the vagina. While this might be a tad bit uncomfortable, it is found to be more revealing and helpful than trans-abdominal ultrasound in the early stages as it will allow the practitioner to diagnose ectopic pregnancy and other fetal abnormalities.
If you opt for the trans-abdominal ultrasound for the 8th-week ultrasound, you would be asked to drink excessive water so that you would have a full bladder before the procedure. While it might be uncomfortable, it will make visualization of the baby easier and clearer.
Where to Get the Ultrasound Done from
Just getting the test done is not enough. You need to ensure that the place from where you get the test done has experienced personnel who would be able to read the results of the test in a proper manner. Since the ultrasound is meant to reveal valuable information, it is necessary that you do not be careless with regards to the place that you select to get the test done.
Side Effects to be Aware of
Numerous studies have been conducted to acquire information about the potential side effects of the test on the baby. So far, the evidence proves that there is no reason for you to worry. Even if the test is done multiple times, it does not affect the growth and development of the baby in any way.
If a Problem is Detected
If an abnormality is detected on the ultrasounds, there is no reason to fly into a panic mode. If there is a problem, the ultrasound will allow the practitioner to reach its root and deal with it accordingly. If the problem is detected at the right time, the practitioner can take the right steps and ensure that the health of the baby is not compromised.
There could be times when the doctor will recommend the termination of the pregnancy. At such times, you need to listen with attention to what he has to say and make your decision accordingly.
Pregnancy is not the kind of stage at which you can take any chances. You need to be vigilant and ensure that you have taken all the right measures so that the pregnancy proceeds in a smooth manner and is devoid of complications. The importance of ultrasound scans should not be undermined. They can be quite revealing and ensure that a timely intervention is sought in case of a problem. Indeed, it can be the reason that you are saved by quite a bit of unnecessary suffering. Therefore, do not neglect to get the test done.
As soon as the pregnancy is confirmed, it is advisable that you book an appointment with a reliable gynecologist who will monitor the pregnancy right from the start. This will ensure that if some problems arise in the later stages, he would be aware of your history and be able to deal with them accordingly.
The advice of the practitioner needs to be followed to the last letter, whether it is about the diet or the supplements that he writes for you or the tests that he orders. Follow his instructions as this will ensure that your pregnancy progresses without any complications.
The 8 week ultrasound is of particular importance as it reveals quite a bit of useful information. The gestational age is confirmed, the number of fetuses present is revealed, and you find out more about the growth of the baby and whether there is a reason to be worried due to the amniotic levels. An ultrasound is a safe and effective way of monitoring the progress of the baby and since it is completely safe, you can get it done without any worries about incurring harm to the baby.
When pregnancy is revealed to a couple, they tend to weave a lot of dreams about the future. They plan for the day that their baby would arrive in their lives. Pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful journey where the couple comes closer and connects on an emotional level. You would not want the journey to be marred by complications and thus, you need to ensure that you take the right precautions. A lot of problems can be evaded if you have the ultrasound done at the right time and if you follow the instructions that the doctor provides you with. It would just take up 15 to 20 minutes of your day and would have a pivotal impact on the outcome of the pregnancy. Do not take any chances and strive to ensure that the baby is well taken care of. The growth and development of the baby need to be monitored, and ultrasound would prove to be of great help in this regard. Make best use of the test to ensure that your pregnancy does not run into any complications.