Every pregnant women is likely to be offered an ultrasound scan and many look forward to them with glee. For those who are unsure, this blog post is going take a look at what a prenatal ultrasound is and what it means for you.
What is a prenatal ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a painless, side-effect free way for midwives and doctors to see what is going on inside the womb, and a way for you to get your first glimpse of your child.
Using sound waves, the ultrasound scan will build a picture of your baby. Via this picture, doctors and midwives can check to see if the baby is developing correctly, at the right rate and assess any severe abnormalities.
It’s very exciting to ‘see’ your baby for the first time, and it is usually a very happy affair, but it’s worth being aware and mindful of the more serious side of a prenatal ultrasound.
What can you find out from an ultrasound scan?
Ultrasound scans are something most new mothers will go through and really they're nothing to worry about. When the sonographer takes the scan, they're looking to check your baby's size. This will give them a better idea of when your due date is, and how far along you are already – something which is calculated based on your last period but adjustments can be made when they have a clearer picture of the baby.
Ultrasounds are also used to determine how many babies there are – whether you're having twins or multiples – and whether the baby (or babies) is growing normally, something that is very important with a multiple pregnancy.
The position of the baby can also be determined by the scan and this can help to decide whether a caesarean section is an advisable option, especially if the placenta is low down late in the pregnancy.
Most importantly, an ultrasound is used to see how healthy the baby is, and whether there seems to be any signs of abnormalities.
Of course, the most exciting part of a prenatal ultrasound is discovering the gender of your baby. Unfortunately, determining the gender isn't always foolproof and so if your baby is lying in an awkward position, it can be hard to tell, but it's worth asking anyway.
How long does a scan take?
This can vary depending on a number of factors. If your baby is lying in an awkward position, or moving around a lot, then it can be difficult to get a clear picture. Additionally, if you're overweight then it can be difficult for the sound waves to pass through the tissue and this could result in it taking longer or the picture being unclear.
All in all, a prenatal ultrasound should take about twenty minutes but it's not uncommon for it to take longer.
If in doubt, ask your doctor
If you have any questions about your ultrasound scan, or any concerns then it's always worth speaking to your doctor. They will be able to provide you with all the relevant and necessary information about your scan – which can vary depending on the hospital policies.