Doctors take ultrasounds to examine the growth and development of a fetus in the womb. The first ultrasound images that we see of our little one bring us so much joy – looking at your baby for the first time, even before they are brought into the outside world and before they ever get to see us. They can be a very emotional thing for us but to doctors, it is merely an assessment of whether your baby is growing and developing right.
Most women may only require taking a few scans during their pregnancies. Others may need to take more ultrasound scans depending on any pregnancy or health-related complications they may have. Before we get into how many ultrasounds you would need, let us talk a bit more about what ultrasounds are for and how they may be taken.
An ultrasound scan is the safest way to scan a baby’s growth and development. X-Ray scans or radiographs are not preferred for pregnancies as they could be harmful to babies. In an ultrasound scan, the area of the skin where the ultrasound is going to be taken is first shaved. A gel is applied to this area and then a transducer is used to send the sound waves. The image is then obtained using these sound waves.
There is another method of performing an ultrasound – using a vaginal transducer. This is normally only done when the abdominal ultrasound scan (the one described earlier) showed some abnormality. A transvaginal ultrasound could show traces of fibroids or the cause of abnormal bleeding if any. For a transvaginal ultrasound, you would need to empty your bladder before taking the test whereas, for an abdominal ultrasound scan, you would have to drink 3-4 glasses of water around 30 minutes before the scan to make sure you have a full bladder.
There are two compulsory scans that a woman must take during her pregnancy. The first one is during the first three months of her pregnancy. This is done to assess the due date of the baby. The second one is anywhere between the 18th and 22nd week of pregnancy. This is done to check if the baby is growing normally. There may be a couple of tests done after this if any complications are found.
Ultrasounds are taken to check the growth of the baby (height, size, bone structure, limbs) and the position of the baby and baby’s head in the womb. It is also done to observe the placenta to check for any sign of placenta praevia and amniotic fluid. A doctor may also ask to take an ultrasound to know your baby’s due date. If an expectant mother has diabetes or any such complications, she would have to take additional scans.