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Prenatal Ultrasound (cont.)

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Why is prenatal ultrasound performed?

As mentioned above, transvaginal ultrasound is most often used in the early weeks of pregnancy to rule out problems or to determine how far along you are in the pregnancy. Most pregnant women receive a transabdominal ultrasound around the 20th week of pregnancy. This exam confirms that the baby is growing normally and that the placenta is attached normally. The heartbeat of the fetus is visible, and the movement of the fetus can be observed. Major birth defects can be visualized by this method, as well. In most cases, it is possible to determine the sex of the baby through an ultrasound exam at 20 weeks, but this method is not 100% accurate. You can tell the examiner whether or not you wish to know the gender of your baby at the time of the examination.

Ultrasound may also be performed earlier or later in the pregnancy for specific reasons that include:

  • Determination of multiple gestation
  • Ensuring the health of the baby and monitoring its growth
  • Determining the location of the placenta
  • Estimation of gestational age and due date
  • Assessing the expected size and weight of the baby
  • Determining the amount of amniotic fluid
  • Determining the position of the baby

What are 3D and 4D ultrasound?

A 3D ultrasound provides a particularly clear image that resembles a photograph. A so-called 4D ultrasound provides this image along with a recording of the baby's movement. Sometimes these ultrasound images are offered by non-medical providers in stores or other locations. Medical authorities, including The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Food and Drug Administration do not recommend using these services because the examiners may not have received proper training and could provide inaccurate information.

Are there risks associated with prenatal ultrasound?

As mentioned before, there is no radiation exposure during a prenatal ultrasound. Ultrasound exams have been used for many years, and studies have never shown any harms associated with the procedure, either on a short- or long-term basis.

REFERENCE: March of Dimes. Ultrasound.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/29/2013

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