How Many Pregnancy Ultrasounds Should You Have During Your PregnancyLisanne Wellness Center
Ultrasounds are used to check the growth and development of your baby in the womb and are an important part of prenatal care. Ultrasounds are helpful in detecting conditions that might otherwise not be noticed until the baby is delivered. They can also tell you the sex of your baby and reassure you that things are progressing as they should be.
What Is an Ultrasound?
An ultrasound uses sound waves to produce pictures of structures inside the body. It is a non-invasive and safe procedure for you and your baby. The ultrasound technician covers your belly in a gel (for trans-abdominal ultrasounds) and uses a small probe, which transmits high-frequency sound waves through the gel and into your body. The probe collects those sounds that bounce back, and a computer uses that information to create an image.
First-trimester ultrasounds are often done transvaginally using a special probe. Though some women find this process mildly uncomfortable, this kind of ultrasound provides better images (since the fetus is so small) and can be more helpful in detecting things like ectopic pregnancies and fetal abnormalities.
It does not use ionizing radiation like an x-ray does, so there is no risk of radiation exposure. There is currently no evidence that ultrasounds are harmful to the fetus; no links have been found between ultrasound and birth defects or other health problems later in life.
What Information Can I Get From an Ultrasound?
The information you get from an ultrasound is dependent on how far along in your pregnancy you are. In general, ultrasound images can be used to check:
- Measurements like height, head size, and bone length
- Congenital abnormalities
- Due date
- Amniotic fluid levels
- Placenta location
- Position, movement, breathing and heart rate
- Number of fetuses
How Many Ultrasounds Will I Need?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should have at least one ultrasound done during your pregnancy, usually at 18-22 weeks. At this time, your baby’s structures are developed enough to obtain information about function and movement.
You may also get a first-trimester ultrasound, which can be used to determine your due date. It is too early to see your baby’s limbs or organs, but an ultrasound done at this time can be used to detect genetic disorders or an ectopic pregnancy. The heart rate and the number of fetuses can also be determined during the first trimester.
Why Might I Have More Ultrasounds?
If you have medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, then you will need more scans. Some women develop these conditions during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension. These can lead to problems like fetal growth restriction, preeclampsia, and preterm and/or Caesarian delivery. You will require closer monitoring if this is the case, which includes more ultrasounds. This way, the doctor can track the growth of your baby and detect any abnormalities.
If you are unsure of the gestational age, your doctor might order an ultrasound at 6-7 weeks to determine how far along you are. After six weeks, the length between the crown of the head and the child’s bottom can be used to accurately determine the gestational age.
Vaginal bleeding may also prompt your doctor to order an extra ultrasound. This could be due to miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. The ultrasound can check for a fetal heartbeat and determine where the embryo is located (it will be outside the uterus if the pregnancy is ectopic). Later on, bleeding could be indicative of placenta issues, so you’ll want to check to see what’s going on.
If you are likely to be carrying multiple fetuses, an ultrasound will be used to determine how many fetuses there are. Your doctor may request an ultrasound if you are measuring larger than a typical pregnancy, if you have a family history of multiple babies, or if you have undergone fertility treatments.
If there’s concern that your baby isn’t growing as much as s/he should be, then you might get more ultrasounds to take measurements. Specific measurements, like the size of the head, midsection, and thigh bone length are used to determine normal growth.
If you’ve been diagnosed with amniotic fluid or placental abnormalities, you will likely need regular ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy. Information obtained from these structures will help your doctor determine the best course of treatment for you.
Other things you can do for a safe pregnancy:
Frequent ultrasounds can also minimize the risk of fetal diseases, which can be identified and treated early if detected. To minimize your baby’s chances of having a birth deformity or fetal disease, it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin. Pregnant women should also consider taking a vitamin-D, folic acid, and vitamin-B12 supplement, and getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet either through food or supplementation.
Every pregnancy is different and the number of ultrasounds you need will vary depending on your individual situation. You can count on at least one ultrasound during pregnancy, but as you can see, there are many reasons why your doctor may want you to get more scans done. In general, ultrasounds help to detect problems early on, from genetic conditions to abnormal growth. This leads to increased vigilance which can improve health outcomes for you and your baby.
For more information on ultrasounds and how they can help improve your chances of having a healthy, successful pregnancy, contact Lisanne Wellness Center anytime at 713-461-WELL.