prenatal ultrasound, pregancy, pregnant, what to expect, womens health, northwest arkansas, OBGYN, obstetricsA prenatal ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to create a photo of the inside of your body. Because radiation is not used, doctors consider ultrasound scans to be very safe. OBGYns often use obstetric ultrasounds to check on babies in their mother’s womb.

You might hear the words ultrasound scans and sonograms used interchangeably. However, the prenatal ultrasound scan is the actual procedure. A sonogram is the produced image. 

How Do Prenatal Ultrasounds Work?

Ultrasounds bounce back off dense surfaces. The denser the object the ultrasound hits, the more it bounces back. This bounce, or echo, shows up on the sonogram as varying shades of gray. For example, if you have no gallstones in your gallbladder, the sound waves will travel through soft tissues and fluids. But if you have a stone, the ultrasound will bounce back, and your physician can see them. Advances in technology include ways to format the sound waves into 3-D images.

What Should I Expect During My Ultrasound?

For a prenatal ultrasound, your sonographer will put gel on your abdomen before being examined. Then, they will use a transducer (a device that looks like a microphone) to touch your skin gently. The transducer sends high-frequency sound waves to an ultrasound image on a video display screen.

Generally, doctors perform an ultrasound on all pregnant women around 20 weeks into their pregnancy. During this ultrasound, the doctor will confirm that the placenta is healthy and that your baby is growing properly in the uterus. You can also see the baby’s heartbeat and movement of its body, arms, and legs, as well as any major anatomical abnormalities or congenital disabilities.

Depending on the baby’s position, your sonographer may be able to see if your baby is a boy or a girl. Please let them know beforehand whether you would like to know. 

Note: Ultrasound is not a foolproof way of determining gender.

How Should I Prepare for A Prenatal Ultrasound?

There is no special preparation for the ultrasound test. Wear comfortable clothing. You will need to remove all jewelry and clothing from the waist down. Some doctors require you to drink 4-6 glasses of water before the test so your bladder is full. This can help the doctor view the baby better on the ultrasound. You will be asked to refrain from urinating until after the test. Ultrasounds are safe and painless, but in cases where your bladder is full, you may experience some discomfort.

Most ultrasound exams are finished within 30 minutes. When the ultrasound is complete, you may be asked to dress and wait while your sonographer reviews the ultrasound images. After an ultrasound, you should be able to resume your normal activities immediately.

At Creekside Center for Women, we use ultrasounds to determine the correct due date for your baby, the baby’s health, placenta location, the baby’s position, and your baby’s expected weight.