Ultrasound has been safely used in pregnancy for over 35 years. With ultrasound, the medical practitioner can see inside the body to obtain information that can be used to confirm and assess how a pregnancy is progressing.
Ultrasound uses sound waves which bounce back from an object, in this case structures in the pelvic region, to produce a 2D picture on a screen for interpretation. Ultrasound examinations are typically performed by ultrasound technicians, physicians, or nurses trained in sonography.
There are different levels of ultrasound that may be used at various stages in a pregnancy.
Limited: This type of ultrasound is typically used in early pregnancy. Its purpose is to determine if the pregnancy is inside or outside the uterus. A pregnancy that is outside the uterus is called an ectopic pregnancy and requires medical intervention. Limited ultrasound can also date a pregnancy by measuring the gestational sac or the developing fetus and determine if the pregnancy is likely to continue based on the detection of fetal heart activity.
Diagnostic: A diagnostic ultrasound is appropriate as the pregnancy progresses and the fetus has matured to a stage where the body can be more closely examined. This type of ultrasound is typically a routine part of prenatal care and is usually performed around 18-20 weeks gestation. This is a more thorough scan that is used to assess and look for various abnormalities in the fetus and the pregnancy itself. There are different levels of diagnostic ultrasound based on the training and experience of the operator and the capacity of the ultrasound machine. Most of the time a Level I diagnostic ultrasound is sufficient for evaluating the health and status of your pregnancy.
3D and 4D: In the past few years, new technology has created 3D and 4D ultrasound pictures. This type of scan is less diagnostic and more for entertainment. By using similar sound technology as a traditional ultrasound scan, but at different angles and with more sophisticated software, viewers are able to see the child’s features with remarkable clarity.
Ultrasound technology continues to improve. Since its inception it has proven to be an invaluable tool in the field of Obstetrics, providing a window into the womb and the opportunity to acquire vital information.
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.