For parents, ultrasounds give them the opportunity to view their baby and connect with them before birth. For doctors, ultrasounds give them a chance to evaluate the baby while developing.
What’s an Ultrasound?
Ultrasounds are also called sonograms. High frequency sound waves are used to “echo” off the body to create a picture. Special jelly is applied to the mother’s abdomen and a transducer (which looks like a wand) is rubbed on top of it. Sound waves are generated back to the transducer as electric impulses and an image is created and displayed onto a computer screen.
Why Are Ultrasounds Done?
Doctors and parents each have their own reasons why ultrasounds are done, but the main reasons boil down to this:
- To diagnose pregnancy
- To determine how many babies are there
- To verify the age of the fetus
- To detect birth defects
- To study the placenta
- To monitor fetal growth and heartbeat
Types of Ultrasounds
There are a few different types of ultrasounds done for different reasons throughout your pregnancy. Most of them are for medical reasons but some of them are not.
- Standard 2-D: This is done to determine things like the gestational age, growth of baby and to see if there is multiple pregnancies happening. It lasts usually about 20 minutes.
- Advanced Ultrasound: This is similar to the standard ultrasound, only the examines purpose is the target suspected problems using more high-tech equipment. Could take 30 minutes or a few hours to perform.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound: The transducer is entered through the vagina to send out sound waves and to gather reflections. It’s mostly done in the early stages of pregnancy when the uterus and fallopian tubes are closer to the vagina than the abdomen surface.
- 3-D Ultrasounds: Offers 3-D images and helps doctors to evaluate images from advanced ultrasounds. This procedure usually takes less time than the others.
- Doppler Imaging: Measures the changes in the ultrasound waves as they bounce off moving objects like blood cells. It’s great for evaluating circulation if you have high blood pressure or if the baby’s growth is slower than normal.
- 4-D: This is done for non-medical reasons and is mainly to get a better look at the baby’s features like the face. Parents can also see full, clear movements during the procedure.
Are Ultrasounds Safe?
Yes, they are. As long as they are performed by a trained technician such as an obstetrician, sonographer or a radiologist, because they can properly perform and interpret the information being given. In some situations, ultrasounds can be unsafe. There are facilities that hire untrained people, who are not properly trained or licensed, to interpret the information. There is also the possibility that an untrained person may use high power levels for extended periods of time, which can be harmful. These facilities usually offer ultrasounds for non-medical reasons, such as selling videos or portraits to parents. If you seek these services, be sure to insist on only qualified professionals to perform the ultrasound.