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Fetal ultrasound is a test done during pregnancy that uses reflected sound waves. It produces a picture of the baby (fetus), the organ that supports the fetus (placenta), and the liquid that surrounds the fetus (amniotic fluid). The picture is displayed on a TV screen. It may be in black and white or in color. The pictures are also called a sonogram, an echogram, or a scan. They may be saved as part of your baby's record.
Fetal ultrasound can be done two ways. In a transabdominal ultrasound, a small handheld device called a transducer is moved over your belly. In a transvaginal ultrasound, a transducer is put into your vagina.
Fetal ultrasound is the safest way to check for problems and get details about your fetus. It can find things such as the size and position of the fetus. It does not use X-rays or other types of radiation that may harm your fetus. It can be done as early as the 5th week of pregnancy. Sometimes the sex of your fetus can be seen by about the 18th week of pregnancy.
Ultrasound is one of the screening tests that may be done in the first trimester to look for birth defects, such as Down syndrome. The first-trimester screening test uses ultrasound to measure the thickness of the skin at the back of the baby's neck. This screening also includes blood tests that measure the levels of two substances that may be related to birth defects.
Fetal ultrasound is done to learn about the health of your fetus. Different details can be learned at different times during your pregnancy.
This test is done to:
In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
Fetal ultrasound can be done in a doctor's office, hospital, or clinic.
You may be able to leave your clothes on, or you will be given a gown to wear.
You can urinate as soon as the test is done.
Ultrasound techs are trained to gather images of your fetus. But they can't tell you if it looks normal or not. Your doctor will share this information with you after the ultrasound images have been reviewed by a radiologist or perinatologist.
During a transabdominal ultrasound, you may have a feeling of pressure in your bladder. The gel may feel cool when it is first put on your belly. You will feel a light pressure when the transducer is passed over your belly.
Normally a transvaginal ultrasound does not cause discomfort. You may feel a light pressure when the transducer is moved in your vagina.
There are no known risks from having this test.
"Keepsake video operations" are ultrasound centers that sell ultrasound videos as your baby's first photo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend ultrasounds for this reason. It recommends ultrasounds only to obtain medical information about a fetus. Keepsake centers may use the ultrasound machine at higher energy levels and for longer times than needed in order to get a "good picture."
You may not get details about the test right away. Full results are usually available in 1 or 2 days.
Many conditions can affect fetal ultrasound results. Your doctor will discuss any abnormal results with you in relation to your past health.
Current as of: July 11, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: July 11, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
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