Different Types of Sonograms During Pregnancy
Ok, so you think you are pregnant. First off, congrats if you are indeed pregnant!!! Now, let the tests begin. From a home pregnancy test to the 36 week test for Group B Strep, some of these tests are enjoyable and some not so much.
Sonograms, are just one type of test you will have during your pregnancy. A sonogram is an ultrasound exam that uses high-frequency sound waves to scan a woman's abdomen and pelvic cavity; this procedure creates a picture (sonogram) of the baby and placenta. They are mostly enjoyable and give the expectant parents a chance to see their unborn baby in all his/her glory.
However, there are different sonograms given at different times during a pregnancy, and that is what we will be discussing here today in this article.
Dating Scan/Trans-vaginal Sonogram
The very first sonogram or ultrasound test during pregnancy you will be given is at around 5-8 weeks of pregnancy, called a dating scan. A dating scan is performed trans-vaginally, meaning that the sonogram is performed through the probe entering the vagina. This type of pelvic ultrasound is used to look at a woman's reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, cervix and vagina.
During the early stages of pregnancy, the sonogram cannot be performed abdominally, because the image generated by transvaginal ultrasound provides a better view of the uterus during early pregnancy. On the other hand, the trans-abdominal study requires a full bladder for optimal visualization of pelvic structures. Therefore, for all intents and purposes at this early stage of pregnancy this is truly the most valuable tool to date a pregnancy.
The doctor from this scan should be able to give you the approximate age and due date of the baby at this point. Also, this will be the first time that you will be able to see your baby in picture form and should be able to see the heart beat as well if all is well and on schedule with your pregnancy. I had this test performed on both my pregnancies and it was so neat to see the baby's little heart beating.
Nuchal Fold Sonogram
The second scan during pregnancy occurs around 11-14 weeks and is called the Nuchal Fold--addominal sonogram, which screens for Downs Syndrome and other genetic disorders. This time out the scan will be performed abdominally. Also, they will be looking for approximate measurement or growth, heartbeat and brain formation of the baby at this time too.
Because this is an abdominal scan and you are still early enough along in the pregnancy, your bladder must be full. So you will be asked to drink several glasses of water and avoid emptying your bladder. Trust me from experience, this is just a bit uncomfortable, especially when you are pregnant and already feel the need to urinate all the time! But when your bladder is full, the ultrasound waves are reflected apparently through this water-filled window which lies immediately over the uterus and small baby allowing much clearer pictures than if you were to have an empty bladder.
This sonogram is pretty straight forward and is the one you usually see on TV and the movies, where the pregnant women is lying down, gel is smeared onto her lower abdomen and then the transducer or probe is moved over the belly to produce the ultrasound images on the computer screen.
The next scan usually does not come until on or about 20 weeks or halfway through the pregnancy and is called an Anatomy Scan or a Level 2 Ultrasound, which is used to examine the organs of the baby and measure to make sure your baby is growing appropriately and that the baby's gestational age is still on target for your due date.
The ultrasound anatomy scan, or level 2 ultrasound, is an amazingly interesting experience for parents-to-be. Your baby will now be measured from crown to rump, around her belly, and around her head too. The four chambers of the heart will be viewed, as well as the kidneys, bladder, stomach, brain, spine, and sex organs. It is at this time that you can find out whether you are having a boy or a girl. Be sure to specify if you don't want to find out and be surprised (Mom's-to-be call this staying Team Green or neutral, because Team Pink is for girls and Team Blue is for Boys).
The sonographer will also be looking at your amniotic fluid levels, the umbilical cord to make sure it is developing Ok, the location of the placenta, and the fetal heart rate (meaning you can see the heart beat yet again). This little detailed show that your baby puts on for you during this sonogram takes about 30-45 minutes and depends on how cooperative the baby is.
I have known women who have had to go back for a repeat sonogram, because the sonographer couldn't get all the shots needed, because the baby was asleep. No worries most likely, but usually just a precaution and relax you get to see your baby again. I truly always loved sonograms, because I could get yet another glimpse at my kids!!
Growth Scans, Doppler Blood Flow and More
Usually if all goes well at your Level 2 Sonogram and you aren't a high risk pregnancy, you will not have another sonogram until well into your 3rd trimester. My first pregnancy went accordingly and I didn't have another sonogram until I was 34 weeks pregnant. For 14 long weeks I never laid eyes on my baby again until, I had a growth sonogram, which is a basically an ultrasound done to make sure that the baby is growing on target and will give you an approximate of the baby's weight and/or height.
How do they measure the baby? They actually measure the baby's head circumference and the length of the femur or longest bone in the leg. Sometimes, their measurements could be wrong. They told me with my second daughter the day before I delivered that she was well over 8 lbs, well lo and behold I had her and she measured 7 lbs 2 ozs at delivery.
Also, during the third trimester if they feel there are any potential complications, they will use a sonogram to scan for placental problems; levels of amniotic fluid; and/or doppler blood flow for a possible cord compression. In my first pregnancy at 39 weeks, I was losing amniotic fluid and thought to also have a possible cord compression, well guess what I had sonograms to assess both. When it was discovered that I was indeed losing fluid, I was told quite simply, "Pregnancy is over!" I was induced and my baby was delivered the following day.
3D ultrasounds are scans providing three dimensional images of the baby, which are what all the other sonograms so far have been. But what if we could capture an image of a fetus that was multi-dimensional? 4D ultrasounds are just that and so much more!
From a simple yawn, to a stretch, to the beating of your baby’s heart, parents-to-be can now see and bond with their unborn child with a 4D sonogram. It is a thrilling experience to see your baby’s face for the first time that will truly touch your heart!
Imagine being able to see your unborn baby sucking her thumb or seeing him wave a little hand at you...
These are just some of things that a 4D Sonogram during the latter part of your pregnancy can capture. I had the privilege of having this scan with my second, because I was considered a high risk pregnancy with her and had growth sonograms pretty much every week in my 3rd trimester with her. The sonographer got to know me, because I was there so often that she switched the machine over to 4D a few times for me to see my baby this way. The pictures was amazing and even had a very clear picture of my baby waving her hand at us in one.
Summing It Up...
So these scans are truly there to help find any potential issues that may arise and if so the necessary actions will be taken. They are essentially life-savers for your baby, even though I admit they were always a blessing for me to have, because I was so enjoyed seeing my baby again and again. Therefore, this always was one of the most special and fun times for me having these scans done, because I truly felt so connected to my babies when I got to see them on the monitor and not just imagine them.
As an expectant parent, remember these tests are given for sound medical reasons, but still try to enjoy them, because as I said this is truly a magical and special time for you. The sonogram pictures I included in the this article are all real and were my babies while they were in utero, I scanned them in and laminated a select few too. Congrats again on your pregnancy and try to enjoy the next 9 months!!