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Ultrasound Tests During Pregnancy Reveal More than Gender

Ultrasound is a safe procedure used throughout pregnancy to monitor your baby’s growth and development. The test uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of your developing baby to help determine your due date and look for signs of healthy development. Here’s what you can expect over the course of your pregnancy.

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Eunice Lee, MD
Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Eight-week ultrasound - Most women will have this ultrasound performed transvaginally using a small wand inserted into the vagina. The sonographer will look for: the gestational sac where the baby grows; a yolk sac that provides nourishment during the early fetal period; and the fetal pole, your baby’s first signs of embryonic life. Your doctor can determine your due date using measurements taken from the fetal pole and also see if you’re carrying multiples.

“Having an ultrasound is an exciting time for parents,” says obstetrician-gynecologist Eunice Lee, MD, with LVPG Obstetrics and Gynecology–1245 Cedar Crest. “At eight weeks, the baby resembles a gummy bear with a beating heart. The first ultrasound takes place early in pregnancy when we can determine due dates more accurately. If your periods are irregular, it’s even more important to get your ultrasound during early pregnancy.”

20-week ultrasound – The second ultrasound is usually performed abdominally by applying a special gel on your abdomen and then rolling a wand over your belly to capture an image of the fetus. A sonographer will do a full anatomy scan to look at vital structures including your baby’s head, face, abdomen, umbilical cord, extremities and organs. If your baby is positioned with an open view of the genital region, your provider will be able to determine gender.

Additional ultrasounds – High-risk women and those experiencing complications may require additional ultrasounds. If your provider suspects genetic or chromosomal issues, you can elect to see a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist for additional testing.

“Parents should be wary of keepsake ultrasounds from private companies,” Lee says. “If an abnormality is detected, their staff won’t have the training to advise you properly and you could miss an opportunity to have a discussion with a specialist about further follow up care.”