Ultrasound for pregnant women has become a common occurrence and necessity these days. Expectant mothers can see the growth of their baby inside the womb as the weeks progress. The ultrasound technology uses radio waves to develop an image of the fetus in the uterus. A clear image can be obtained usually in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Ultrasound is nothing short of miraculous and can actually help point out possible complications during pregnancy before they become fatal for the mother. However, some would argue against the use of high-frequency waves during pregnancy. So here, we have got you a detailed analysis of the benefits and risks of getting an ultrasound during pregnancy.
Let’s find out everything!
The Purpose of Ultrasound for Pregnant Women
The use of ultrasound first began in the 1950s, when a Scottish surgeon found that various tissues inside the body emit different wavelengths and sound echoes. Soon enough, ultrasound began to be used for all kinds of medical diagnostics and gradually for pregnant women too. But in the early days, it was only used to detect some complications like when there was bleeding after pregnancy or similar other occurrences.
After the 1970s, almost all pregnant women had an ultrasound. These days it is a packaged deal with pregnancy checkups.
Usually, there are two ultrasound tests during the whole pregnancy. One is done at around 12 weeks and the other after 20 weeks. An early pregnancy scan might also be done to give an estimated delivery date.
Here is how the whole process of scanning with ultrasound in pregnancy goes:
- The nuchal translucency ultrasound happens between 11-14 weeks. It is done to check on the development of the fetus, discover twins, and see if the baby is in the correct position.
- The anomaly ultrasound takes place between 18 and 20 weeks. It is done to look at the growth of organs and body parts of the baby, check for any apparent complications, find out the gender of the baby, and check on the position of the placenta.
Benefits of Getting an Ultrasound Scan during Pregnancy
Getting an ultrasound during pregnancy helps you:
The most obvious benefit is confirming the pregnancy to avoid any confusion. The quick, at-home pregnancy test can be wrong sometimes, and they have been available in the market only recently. But ultrasound can provide solid confirmation of budding pregnancy. You can also feel and look at the heartbeat of the fetus with a scan.
Determine the Gestational Age of the Fetus
Ultrasound allows you to know the gestational stage of the fetus. A normal pregnancy can be anywhere from 37 to 41 weeks. With a scan, the gestational age of the baby can be known which is important to measure its development and growth. This will help ensure that the baby is according to expectations and that there are no abnormalities in the development stages.
Check for Multiple Babies
With an ultrasound scan, you will know if there is more than one baby on the way. Twins are a more common occurrence than triplets or more babies, but it may happen. Risks are especially greater in the case of multiple babies for both the mother and the babies. So, such pregnancies need to be monitored regularly to prepare for any potential compilations like a twin to twin transfusion.
Look upon Placenta
The position of the placenta is essential for the safe birth of a baby and can also affect the mother in some cases. Some of the problems that can be detected beforehand include a low position of the placenta near the cervix leading to destructive bleeding at the time of birth, unsupported membranes of the baby by the placenta putting them at risk of rupture, placental invasion of the uterine muscles, placental growth through the uterine wall, and some other problems.
Track Fetal Position and Growth
The position of the fetus is necessary as it can either make the delivery easy or more difficult. Also, the scan helps the doctor track the growth of the fetus and if it is developing fine. Some anomalies might require the intervention of the medical team to prevent health problems for the mother and the baby.
Check the Level of Amniotic Fluid
There is a certain level of amniotic fluid required for a safe pregnancy. Too little or too much of this fluid can cause complications. So, it is better to know with an ultrasound if there is any such problem.
Identify Genetic Issues with the baby
Many parents would want to know ahead of time if there are any congenital or genetic defects in the baby. They may become problematic health issues for the fetus as an individual. Depending on the severity, parents might want to terminate the pregnancy or take the measures necessary to deal with the impending issues.
Detect Death of the Fetus
If a fetus dies inside the womb, it can cause catastrophic problems for the mother as well. In any such case, the diagnosis needs to be made immediately, or the mother would suffer severe consequences. An ultrasound scan can help detect any such occurrences on time.
Risks Associated with Ultrasound in Pregnancy
There are no known fatal risks or side effects of getting an ultrasound during pregnancy. Although it is not a perfect procedure, it may over or undercompensate in some cases.
One of the primary problems that might arise in the process is overdiagnosis. Sometimes the position of the fetus or shading might lead the scan to show a lesion, inflammation, or something else that isn’t there. This can cause the doctor to mistreat the patient. This is not a common occurrence.
In an un-diagnosis, an anomaly may be missed and not identified in the scan. Sometimes only a part of the problem may be seen. This is called partial diagnosis. Un-diagnosis may lead to the health issue that was not identified, becoming worse and causing even more anomalies.
In a few cases, with a high frequency of the waves, the fetus may suffer certain effects of the transmission, but these consequences are not dangerous for the mother or the baby.
Types of Ultrasounds
Some ultrasounds are more advanced and produce a better and more detailed image. Generally, there are three different kinds of ultrasound scans.
This is done by inserting a probe in the vagina to produce a clearer image. This is used in the early days of pregnancy when the fetus is in its beginning stages, and it is difficult to capture the entire body parts in a proper image.
This scan produces a 3-D image including the height, width, and depth of the fetus and the organs of the mother. It can help figure out hidden complications early on. It uses software that creates a 3-D image of the picture taken.
This one is a more dynamic scan that creates videos of the fetus. It captures the movements and captures shadows in a better way.
An ultrasound procedure is considered safe for use on pregnant women throughout the world, and there have been no known fatal instances in the medical world. On the other hand, the benefits of the scan are multifold. So, the bottom line is that you can get an ultrasound scan without worrying about it negatively affecting your baby.