Ultrasounds: What to expect and why they are important

3 Nov 2019

An ultrasound (also known as a sonogram) is a safe way of giving you a sneak peek at your growing baby inside your womb. It uses high-frequency soundwaves to create real-time moving images of your developing baby. Those images are then displayed for you and your doctor to see.

What happens during an ultrasound scan?

During your ultrasound appointment you will be asked to lie down while a doctor or midwife applies a water-based gel to your tummy; a hand-held device called a transducer is then placed onto the gelled area. The transducer is what emits the high-frequency soundwaves and from that, black and white images of your baby are displayed on a screen. Most times, stills are taken and printed for you to take home as a little memento.

To prepare for an ultrasound, especially for ones in the early stages of your pregnancy, it is recommended that your scan is done while you have a full bladder. This helps to get the clearest possible image of the foetus and your reproductive organs.

Why should you have an ultrasound?

Not only is it magical to see, but it also helps your doctor to monitor your baby’s development and detect any early or potential complications.

During your first trimester (one to 12 weeks), ultrasounds are used to:

  • Confirm if you suspect that you are pregnant but uncertain
  • Check to see if you are carrying multiples
  • Determine how far along you are and give an estimated date on when you can expect your baby to arrive
  • Check the foetal heartbeat
  • Examine for any abnormalities or problems in the foetus or reproductive organs

During your second (12 to 24 weeks) or third (24 to 40+ weeks) trimester, ultrasounds are used to:

  • Determine the gender of your baby – unless you want to keep it a surprise
  • Monitor foetal growth, development and position – this will help determine if you will be able to give natural birth, should you prefer to do so
  • Check for any problems or abnormalities

How many ultrasound appointments you should schedule depends on your pregnancy and if you or your baby experience any problems or abnormalities. It is recommended that you schedule at least two during your pregnancy.