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 scans during pregnancy and ultrasounds.
Why Is Pregnancy Scanning Important
Many scans are done from the time you get your first pregnancy scan to confirm the pregnancy until your dilation is checked for childbirth, and each has its importance. Usually, a pregnancy ultrasound aims to rule out any anomaly in the child's growth and prevent the pregnancy's progress (1). Here are the main reasons why scans during pregnancy and ultrasounds are essential.
1. 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.
2. Pregnancy scanning is essential occasionally to check the baby's gestational age. This helps the mother be mentally and logistically prepared for the due date.
3. If you are expecting twins or multiples, you can know only by getting a pregnancy scan and ultrasound test confirmed by a doctor.
4. Sometimes, complications like a low-lying placenta or reduced amniotic fluid might need immediate attention. Thus, regular pregnancy scanning helps catch and rectify or take preventive actions to avoid premature birth.
5. During the last few weeks, the first ultrasound during pregnancy 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.
6. Ultrasounds 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
These are two types of ultrasound in pregnancy that 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 about what's happening inside.
2. Transabdominal Scan – This is the most common pregnancy scanning method where the ultrasound is done above the abdomen.
ALSO READ – 7 Weeks of Pregnancy: Ultrasound Scan
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Myths About First Ultrasound During Pregnancy
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.
1. 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 the first ultrasound during pregnancy.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 consequence of the intention with which the scan is done.
5. 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.
6. 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 the first ultrasound during pregnancy 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!
In conclusion, ultrasounds during pregnancy play a crucial role in monitoring the health and development of both the mother and the baby. With the first ultrasound during pregnancy, healthcare providers can confirm the pregnancy, estimate the due date, and detect potential complications. Throughout the pregnancy, different types of ultrasounds, such as the early pregnancy scan and routine scans, provide valuable information about the baby's growth, anatomy, and overall well-being.
While ultrasounds are generally considered safe and non-invasive, it is essential to use them judiciously and only when medically necessary. The benefits of ultrasounds include early detection of abnormalities, reassurance for parents, and guidance for healthcare professionals in making informed decisions. It is essential to have open communication with your healthcare provider to understand the risks and benefits associated with ultrasounds, ensuring that they are used appropriately to support a healthy pregnancy journey for both the mother and the baby.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Q1: What is a pregnancy ultrasound, and why is it performed?
Ans: A pregnancy ultrasound is a medical imaging technique that uses sound waves to create images of the fetus in the womb. It is performed to monitor the baby's development, check for any abnormalities, estimate the due date, and assess the overall health of the pregnancy.
Q2: When is the first ultrasound typically performed during pregnancy?
Ans: The first ultrasound, known as the dating or viability scan, is usually performed between 8 and 12 weeks of pregnancy. It helps confirm the pregnancy, determine the number of fetuses, and estimate the gestational age.
Q3: What are the different types of ultrasounds performed during pregnancy?
Ans: There are several types of ultrasounds in pregnancy, including transabdominal ultrasounds, transvaginal ultrasounds, and specialized scans such as the nuchal translucency scan, anatomy scan, and growth scan. These scans serve different purposes at different stages of pregnancy.
Q4: What is an early pregnancy scan, and when is it done?
Ans: An early pregnancy scan, also known as an early dating scan, is typically performed between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy. It helps confirm the pregnancy, detect the baby's heartbeat, and estimate the gestational age more accurately.
Q5: How many ultrasounds are usually done during pregnancy?
Ans: The number of ultrasounds can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the pregnancy. Typically, most women have at least two ultrasounds during pregnancy, including the dating scan and the anatomy scan around 20 weeks. Additional scans may be recommended if there are any concerns or complications.
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