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Ultrasounds During Pregnancy – Myths, Risks & Benefits

When it comes to pregnancy scanning and ultrasound, you will hear a million people say a million different things. Some will tell you about their fantastic experience seeing their fetus during pregnancy or hearing the baby's heartbeat. But, on the other hand, a few others will scare you with stories of how the rays from the ultrasound machine are harmful to the kids and can lead to congenital disabilities etc. This article will help you understand and differentiate the truth from the myths regarding pregnancy scanning and ultrasounds. 

Why Is Pregnancy Scanning Important

Many scans are done from the time you get your first pregnancy scanning done to confirm the pregnancy till the time your dilation is checked for childbirth, and each of those has its own importance. Usually, ultrasound pregnancy scanning aims to rule out any anomaly in the child's growth and check the pregnancy's progress (1). Here are the main reasons why pregnancy scanning and ultrasounds are essential. 

 To confirm the pregnancy and its location. In some cases, the pregnancy is in the fallopian tube, which can be risky for the mother and thus needs to be aborted. Therefore, it is essential to know the location of the pregnancy. 
• Pregnancy scanning is essential from time to time to check the gestational age of the baby. This helps the mother be mentally and logistically prepared for the due date.
• If you are expecting twins or multiples, you can get to know that only by getting a pregnancy scan and ultrasound test confirmed by a doctor. 
• Sometimes complications like a low lying placenta or reducing amniotic fluid might need immediate attention. Thus, regular pregnancy scanning helps catch and rectify or take preventive actions to avoid premature birth. 
• During the last few weeks, ultrasound plays a crucial role in identifying the baby's position and preparing for delivery by knowing how ready the cervix is to dilate and deliver the baby.  

    Ultrasound and scans are done only for medical reasons. In India, it is illegal and punishable to ask for sex or for a doctor to determine and reveal the sex of the baby before birth. 

    Types Of Ultrasounds For Pregnancy Screening

    Two types of scans can be performed depending on your need and your progress in the pregnancy.

    1. Transvaginal Scan – As the name suggests, this scan is done via the vagina of the expecting mother. A small probe is inserted via her vagina to get a clear picture of her uterus, ovaries and fallopian tube. A transvaginal scan is preferred in the early stage or to confirm pregnancy when a transabdominal scan cannot give a more precise scan or adequate information of what's happening inside.  
    2. Transabdominal Scan – This is the most common pregnancy scanning method where the ultrasound is done from above the abdomen. 

      ALSO READ – 7 Weeks of Pregnancy: Ultrasound Scan

      Myths About Ultrasound 

      Sometimes, getting used to something new is not easy. For example, you might have heard the older generation caution you against all these machines that can cause harm to your baby, including ultrasounds. Here are some myths you would have heard that are untrue. 

      • Ultrasounds harm the baby – There is no scientific evidence to support this myth. Unfortunately, many people believe that ultrasounds can harm the baby, but there is no risk to the baby because of ultrasound scans. 
      • Ultrasound emits radiation – Ultrasounds are high-frequency sound waves that bounce off the internal organs and thus create a picture of what they look like on a screen. There are no radiations – harmful or otherwise that an ultrasound machine emits. 
      • Ultrasounds are done above the body only – This is again a myth. We saw in the section above that ultrasounds can also be transvaginal or transabdominal. Thus, this myth that ultrasound is only over the body is untrue.
      • 3D ultrasound is better and more accurate than 2D ultrasound – The only difference between 2D and 3D ultrasound is the imaging that it generates. It depends on the purpose of the scan and your doctor's expertise to accurately interpret the scan results and know the result for the intention with which the scan is done. 
      • One should remain empty stomach before pregnancy scanning – Eating does not cause any hindrance in ultrasound results. However, if your doctor has advised you to stay empty stomach before the scan, please follow their advice. 
      • An ultrasound needs a full bladder – In some cases, like trying to find kidney stones, your doctor might ask you to drink water before the scan to have a full bladder. But this does not apply during the pregnancy scan.

        Your doctor would never ask you to get ultrasound scans done unnecessarily. Scans are always done with a purpose and are helpful in a successful and healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Some necessary scans that you would not want to miss are 

        1. The scan to confirm your pregnancy and determine the number of babies
        2. The NT scan at weeks 10 – 13
        3. The anatomy scan at weeks 18 – 22
        4. A doppler test 

          Follow the scan schedule and recommendation by your doctor to ensure the same. Happy Pregnancy! 

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