Ultrasounds are now a common part of prenatal care for future mothers. Beyond ensuring the baby (and mother’s safety) and inspecting the growth of the child, it’s also become a milestone in parenthood: a symbolic moment full of emotions and excitement for the upcoming birth.
Strangely, although it has become so commonplace and as such, is happily welcomed into ours and our babies’ lives, for many of us, ultrasounds largely remain a mystery.
With that in mind, let’s break it down so we can better understand how ultrasounds work, what they are used for and if they can pose any danger during pregnancy.
How do ultrasounds work?
The main function of the ultrasound scan is to send sound waves created by the transducer probe into the womb or uterus. The waves then bounce off of the baby as echoes and are then turned into an image on a screen. This is the image we get to witness in amazement as we see our baby’s position and movements within the womb.
The biggest echoes are made by hard tissues such as bone since they reflect the most sound waves. These appear as white in the image in contrast to the soft tissue which is seen as grey.
These scanned images can be very exciting for parents, as they provide a first glance of the baby. However, that is not the main purpose of the ultrasound scans.
What are they for?
Ultrasound scans can be used for different purposes throughout pregnancy. They provide different information to doctors and specialists, such as determining the number of fetuses or the gender of the baby (which may not always be visible in the ultrasound) to more detailed information such as:
- The baby’s heartbeat
- Showing the position of the baby and the placenta.
- Assessing the risk of Down syndrome by measuring the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck
- Examining the development of organs.
- Determining the amount of amniotic fluid
- Measuring the rate of growth of the baby.
- Providing accurate date of pregnancy based on the measurements of the baby
The ultrasound scan can be very effective when it comes to assessing most possible complications that may occur during pregnancy. Among these it may help detect if there is an ectopic pregnancy (when an embryo implants outside of the womb) or diagnose other abnormalities. It may also find the cause of any possible bleeding experienced during the pregnancy or determine the cause of an abnormal blood screening test among other things.
Are there any risks involved?
An ultrasound scan is generally painless. There may be some discomfort if you happen to have a very full bladder at the time. You may feel more comfortable with a half empty bladder during the scan.
Ultrasounds have shown to be noninvasive as well as low-risk. They are usually quite accurate when estimating the baby’s size, but the weight may be under or overestimated especially when ultrasound transducer probes are overused resulting in unnecessary C-sections or premature deliveries.
Probe repair experts PRS France, who repair ultrasound equipment for hospitals and clinics in the B2B field, show that the probes can be safely repaired and return to full functionality after testing. By performing this maintenance, the ultrasound scans will provide the most accurate information, therefore avoiding any unnecessary risks.
Ultrasound scans have become part of the process we go through during pregnancy, and as technology develops they are becoming more proficient and advanced. When meeting your doctor for an ultrasound scan, make sure to ask any questions that are in the best interest of your baby’s health.