What to Expect at an Ultrasound Appointment

By Jeremy M. Bell, DO March 29, 2017

From sepia to black and white and seeing tiny fingers and legs, babies sure are fascinating to see through ultrasounds.

Ultrasounds have become a typical part of modern pregnancy and prenatal care, and provide important insight into your baby’s development. Health care providers recommend that all pregnant women receive an ultrasound at least once, usually between the 18 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. If other medical issues are present, ultrasounds are sometimes needed at other points during pregnancy as well.

Early in Pregnancy

If your provider did not confirm your pregnancy with a heartbeat monitor, your first ultrasound will confirm your baby’s heartbeat and that your pregnancy is uterine. If your pregnancy appears to be ectopic or tubular, it is best to find this out immediately so that you can discuss your and your baby’s health with your provider.

If you’ve never received an ultrasound before, be prepared to be a little chilly and a little slimey. A standard transabdominal ultrasound starts with a cool gel that is rubbed onto your lower belly (over your uterus). The ultrasound technician then rubs a transducer wand, which emits sound waves, over the area. The gel conducts the sound waves, which bounce off of the contours of your baby to produce the image you’ll see on-screen. That image, or sonogram, will be the first picture you have of your baby! It also allows the technician to take the baby’s measurements, to be compared at later ultrasounds. If it is very early in the pregnancy, the technician may perform a transvaginal (internal) ultrasound, which uses the transducer wand to scan the uterus from the vaginal cavity in order to detect the baby more clearly or earlier than would be possible with a transabdominal ultrasound.

The Big Show

If your pregnancy has been confirmed by other means and you have not had any first trimester bleeding, your first ultrasound will take place between 18 and 22 weeks into your pregnancy, to check in on baby’s development. The process will be the same as described above, but the sonogram will be quite a bit different. Since your baby is bigger, your provider will be able to show you more detail about what baby looks like. This is typically when you can, if you choose, get a better idea of your baby’s gender. We also offer 3-D/4-D ultrasounds.

The Final Stretch

If there is a concern about diabetes or hypertension or about your baby being too big or too small, another ultrasound is highly recommended when you reach your third trimester. This scan will update your provider on your baby’s growth and general health, but also on the placenta and umbilical cord locations and amniotic fluid levels. Your provider may also use an ultrasound to check the length of your cervix if there is any possibility of preterm labor.

The risks involved in receiving an ultrasound from an experienced technician are very low. If you have any spotting during pregnancy or are carrying multiples, your practitioner will usually request more ultrasounds to check for any health concerns. In general, ultrasounds are noninvasive and cause only slight discomfort to mom and none to baby. Medical guidelines do caution against unnecessary exposure to ultrasound, but the benefits of monitoring your baby’s development and being alerted of any issues outweigh the very low risk having one performed.

Make an appointment for your ultrasound today!