Understanding the ultrasound

By Published On: October 8th, 2012

The test came back positive—congratulations! You’re going to have a […]

The test came back positive—congratulations! You’re going to have a baby. While your nine-month to-do list is growing by the minute, it’s likely you can think of little else besides seeing your bambino for the first time. Thankfully, waiting 40 weeks isn’t necessary. An ultrasound will fulfill your desire for that first look—and also give your care provider an opportunity to check on baby’s health and well-being.
The basics
Ultrasound technology uses a wand-shaped tool called a transducer that emits high-frequency sound waves to form a sonogram, or picture of the uterus. The echo transforms into images of the fetus. Both practitioners and specialized ultrasound technicians can perform the procedure.
There are two types of ultrasounds used during pregnancy. Most women are familiar with the topical transabdominal ultrasound, which is administered using a transducer and a cold gel to better conduct the waves and achieve a high-quality image.
Less common, but more effective in viewing tiny embryos in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, a transvaginal ultrasound uses sound waves emitted from a location more up close and personal in relation to the uterus, providing the better image of the two methods.
First trimester
If the decision is made to have a first-trimester ultrasound, it will be very basic. Your peanut-sized baby is not developed enough for the in-depth ultrasound you’ll encounter a few months down the road. The initial viewing around 8 weeks is used to confirm a pregnancy, determine date of conception, and check for multiples. It is also combined with other tests (such as blood work) to screen for chromosomal abnormalities. Although some physicians routinely administer an additional ultrasound around the 11- to 14-week mark, others find it unwarranted unless there is a history of complicated pregnancies or the due date is indeterminable.
Second trimester
Not only has your baby grown from the size of a blueberry to the size of a banana by the 20-week checkup, he has also developed enough that the untrained eyes of parents can often make out his beating heart, little feet, or tiny thumb being sucked. Even more thrilling: the gender reveal! Parents who want to know can usually find out baby’s sex during this memorable appointment. Occasionally fetal position makes it difficult to decipher gender, but as disappointing as it may be to have to wait, it’s likely your baby will have shifted by your next ultrasound and you’ll finally have an answer to the long awaited pink or blue question.
This level II ultrasound gives the ultrasonographer the opportunity to verify baby’s health. More targeted than the first trimester level I, the anatomy scans aid practitioners as they measure the size and location of your baby, gauge appropriate levels of amniotic fluid, and confirm all major organs are working correctly.
Imaging outlook
Three- and four-dimensional ultrasound technology continues to become more widespread. While these new sonograms can’t reveal any more to your doctor in the third trimester than the standard 2D, soon-to-be parents hoping for a more detailed look at their baby embrace these new tools. Three-dimensional images reveal facial features and individual fingers and toes. By adding the element of time, real-time videos of their little one amaze parents who opt for 4D. Many insurance companies still won’t cover this redundant screening, but it may be worth the extra cost for moms and dads wishing to bond with baby.
The future of fetal photography is an exciting prospect considering the relatively recent innovations of 3D and 4D technology.
Anticipated advancements, both realistic and idealistic, include better access to the newest technology and a move toward a more intimate ultrasound experience within healthcare facilities.