One of the most exciting things about pregnancy is actually seeing your baby during ultrasound scans. Hearing the heartbeat, the technician pointing out their little legs and arms, and even seeing your baby doing something funny like a wave is an amazing experience! It’s magical and can be really overwhelming – seeing your baby can cause everything else to fly out of your mind!
Even though seeing your baby is an important part of ultrasounds, it’s also essential to understand how your baby is developing.
Here’s what you can expect during your pregnancy ultrasound appointments, how many ultrasounds you should get during your pregnancy, and what questions you need to ask during these appointments.
What Is An Ultrasound, And Why Are They Important?
During an ultrasound appointment, a technician will use a transducer to transmit high-frequency sound waves through your uterus. These sound waves then send signals back to a machine that converts them into images of your baby for your technician to study.
“An ultrasound is one of the few ways your pregnancy care provider can see and hear your baby. It can help them determine how far along you are in pregnancy, if your baby is growing properly or if there are any potential problems with the pregnancy,” says Cleveland Clinic.
At What Weeks Do You Get Ultrasounds When Pregnant?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists tells, “You should have at least one standard [ultrasound] exam during your pregnancy, which usually is performed at 18–22 weeks of pregnancy.”
However, in recent times, it has become common for women to get an ultrasound before the 14th week of pregnancy during their first trimester. The reason why this is not considered standard or necessary is that the baby is still too small and underdeveloped to really get a clear sight of their limbs. A first-trimester ultrasound can tell you how many fetuses are there, the gestational age and your due date, can check the fetus’s heart rate, and screen for certain genetic disorders.
The second-trimester ultrasound can show you a lot more! During this appointment you’ll be able to see your baby’s hands, feet, and face; your baby can be measured and their organs assessed; and their sex can be determined.
During the third trimester, as you approach your due date, the position of your baby starts becoming really important. So, during this ultrasound, your baby’s position will be assessed as well as the size of the baby and amniotic fluid levels.
How Many Ultrasounds Do You Get During Pregnancy?
This greatly depends on your pregnancy, preferences, and any complications that you may have.
Pregnant women can opt for a nuchal translucency ultrasound (done between 10 to 13 weeks). This measures the space at the back of a fetus’ neck to see if there are any signs of Down syndrome or congenital disabilities. “A nuchal translucency ultrasound is optional for everyone who is pregnant. Sometimes, people choose to have this ultrasound to alleviate concerns about their baby’s health. Other times, your health care provider might recommend it if you’re at risk of complications or have a family history of congenital disorders,” explains Parents.
Medical issues such as diabetes or hypertension will also warrant extra ultrasounds to ensure that your baby is developing normally.
It’s important to make sure you understand exactly what’s happening during your ultrasounds and know how your baby is developing. No, you don’t need to learn how to read a pregnancy ultrasound report! But there are some important questions to ask during these scans.
6 Questions To Ask During Ultrasound Appointments
Ask these questions to get an accurate picture of your little one and how they’re growing:
- Can you explain what we’re looking at in this ultrasound?
If you’re not a medical professional, chances are you won’t exactly know what you’re looking at. So, don’t be afraid to ask your ultrasound technician to explain exactly what’s on the screen.
- Do I need any additional screenings or tests?
If you get an ultrasound in your first trimester, you can check with your healthcare provider whether or not you should go for additional tests. If they recommend additional screenings, ask what in your ultrasound points to that need.
- How is my baby’s growth?
Ask your technician to tell you what they’re looking for and assessing during the appointment.
According to Healthline, Congenital Heart Defects are one of the leading causes of birth defects and infant death. So, there are some important questions to ask relating to your baby’s heart during the second-trimester ultrasound. For example, is the muscle working as it should, and are all four chambers and have the essential arteries developed?
You can also ask about your baby’s other major organs and general growth to see if they’re measuring within the range that is expected.
- How is the amniotic fluid level?
Amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds your baby in the womb and is responsible for protecting the fetus and temperature control. Plus, it plays a role in bone and muscle development and it contains antibodies. One of the most important things that an ultrasound can give information on is the amniotic fluid level. Too little or too much can cause issues in your pregnancy. It’s important to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
- Can you see what the sex is?
It’s up to you whether or not you want to know if you’re having a boy or a girl. You can find out in your second-trimester scan if your baby isn’t in a position that makes this challenging. So, think about if you want to find out.
- Is there anything that could affect my birth plan?
In your third trimester, you may have created a birth plan as your due date is fast approaching. Discuss your plan and ask whether they can see anything in the ultrasound that could affect it. This way you’re prepared for any deviations from your plan and can have a plan b sorted. Being prepared can help with any anxiety around labor.
Looking for a detailed guide to help you through pregnancy and prepare for the birth of your child? Then the Birth Made Simple online course is for you. Through this course, you’ll learn how to prepare for labor, what happens during labor, and what you should do 48 hours after giving birth.