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Complete Guide to Pregnancy Ultrasound

  • 4.9 (5 Votes)

Ultrasound is a medical test performed by an experienced sonographer to look inside the human body. During pregnancy gynecologists ask for regular ultrasounds to monitor the growth of a baby inside the uterus. Ultrasound is also used to identify any chromosomal abnormality in a growing baby.

Ultrasound utilizes high frequency sound waves to visualize the internal organs of human body. It is a very useful technique during pregnancy to rule out any congenital abnormality in the growing fetus inside the uterus. Not just the health of the baby, but also the health of to-be-mother can be determined with the help of ultrasounds.

Ultrasound helps in measuring the growth of baby in terms of her weight and height. It can also identify fetal chromosomal abnormality in the baby. Gynecologists recommend regular ultrasounds to check the levels of amniotic fluid, to rule out multiple pregnancies or ectopic pregnancy, to estimate delivery date and to measure cervical length as well.If someone has shorter cervical length a way before due date then there are higher chances of premature delivery. In such cases, emergency cervical cerclage may be required.

Ultrasound uses sound waves to visualize internal organs so it is also called sonogram. Ultrasound is also performed on a pregnant lady to know if she and her child are under good health conditions. Some advanced techniques of Ultrasounds are also used to assess the fetal and pregnancy-related complexities like the fetal anomaly (malformation), diseases and disorders in woman’s womb.

Kinds of Ultrasounds done during pregnancy

1- Transabdominal Ultrasound

Transabdominal ultrasound involves applying gel on lower abdomen to take pictures of uterus and the growing baby inside it. This ultrasound is the most common form of ultrasound recommended to assess the health of the mother and the baby. This type of ultrasound is usually practiced in second and third trimester. A gel like substance, which is applied on the abdomen,ensures better contact between ultrasound probe and the skin.

Transabdominal Ultrasound

Generally, you are recommended to drink water in an empty stomach before this type of ultrasound. Your bladder should be partially filled before ultrasound. Partially filled bladder ensures your bowel is out of pelvis region, giving clear view of uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.It takes nearly 10-15 minutes to do a transabdominal ultrasound. But sometimes, if the baby is not in a favorable thesonographer may ask you to wait for some time before taking the ultrasound again. Unfavorable position makes the examination of fetus difficult and certain parameters cannot be measured properly.

2- Transvaginal Ultrasound

In this type of ultrasound, an ultrasound probe, which is approximately 2 cm in diameter, is inserted into the vagina. The ultrasound probe is covered with protective sheath such as condom and the gel is applied on the probe before inserting the probe into the vagina. Transvaginal ultrasounds are more precise as these can take closer pictures of pelvic regions. It is usually practiced in first trimester or early second trimester. This process is not painful and your privacy is also maintained by covering your lower part with a towel.

How many ultrasounds are generally recommended during pregnancy?

Generally there is not an exact figure for the number of ultrasounds one should have during entire pregnancy. But the sure thing is that it varies from pregnant woman to woman. Some women who come under the category of high-risk pregnancy should have more ultrasounds in order to have constant monitoring. But one should have at least these below mentioned ultrasounds at right time to ensure their pregnancy is going in the right direction.

1- Around 6-7 weeks

This is the first ultrasound that you have once you know you are pregnant. Most of the times, this is trans-vaginal ultrasound. By this time, the sonographer looks for the fetus with heartbeat. If the heartbeat is not present at 6 weeks, the sonographer asks for a follow up ultrasound after 2 weeks.

ultrasound image of 7 weeks fetus

If everything comes out to be normal with fetal heart beat present at 6 weeks, then you require next ultrasound around 12th week or 13th week of pregnancy.

2- After 12th week of pregnancy

You have your second ultrasound around 12th or 13 week of pregnancy for NT scan check. This is done to rule out any congenital abnormality at an early stage. Remember that the gender of the baby cannot be ruled out at this stage. Moreover, a revelation of gender by the sonographer is completely banned in India. This ultrasound is also done to check growth and development of your baby like the heartbeat, muscle growth, and movement. It also helps to analyze the due date of delivery.

3- After 18-20 Weeks of pregnancy

This is the third ultrasound in your normal routine prenatal care. It is done to rule out any abnormality such as down syndrome, chromosomal defect, cleft lips, nasal defect or any other form of abnormality. Though the sex of a baby can be determined as early as 12 weeks after conception the most clearidentification of the sex of the baby can be seen after 18-20 weeks of pregnancy. Sex determination in India is banned byPre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 to curb the gender discrimination.

4- After 24-25 weeks of pregnancy

This is your fourth ultrasound in routine check up. This is echo ultrasound done using 3D imaging to take clear pictures of baby’s heart. The four chambers of the baby’s heart develop by this stage. Ultrasound at this stage helps in checking the proper functioning of the heart. Sometimes, calcifications in baby’s heart valve appear as white mass in ultrasound, which needs further investigations. But, it’s nothing to worry about. Most of the times, it is dissolved once the baby is born. This is also known as fetal echocardiography.

5- After 30 weeks of pregnancy

This ultrasound is known as Doppler ultrasound scan to check the blood flow in baby’s brain and heart. It also measures the height and weight of the body to monitor growth. It also checks the blood flow into the placenta to ensure baby is getting sufficient oxygen and nutrients. The hair on the scalp of baby grows during this period of pregnancy. Baby starts responding to noise. An ultrasound in this stage indicates the consistent development of the baby.

ultrasound image of 30 weeks pregnancy

There are various other times when your doctor may recommend a routine ultrasound to assess the health of the baby or your health. Some routine ultrasounds can be taken to determine the due date. Doctor’s also check position of the baby at this stage. If she is in breech position, chances are that you might have c-section delivery. But most of the times, baby can turn up before 34 weeks.

6- After 37-38 weeks of pregnancy:

This ultrasound is done to check dilation of the cervix as well as cervical length. By this time, it is also ruled out which type of delivery you will be having. Once you approach 38 weeks mark, doctor can ask you to visit regularly after every 1 week to check the delivery progress.

Pregnancy Ultrasound is not painful

Ultrasound is not a painful process. But, the gel used before taking ultrasounds might create uneasiness for some women.Some women can feel trans-vaginal ultrasounds to be painful and uncomfortable. But always remember that it does not cause harm. You may feel discomfort for 5-10 minutes but everything comes back to normal after that.

It is recommended for the sonographersto take multiple clear images at different angles with the help of ultrasound. Clear view images at various angles ensure proper diagnosis.

A routine ultrasound is recommended by the doctors to assess the development of your baby and your health. Many times, you feel normal but you or your baby may need special care. The required tests and progress of the growth of the babycan only be determined by the diagnostic ultrasounds.

An advanced type of ultrasounds to determine pregnancy-related complexities

1- Color Doppler

This kind of ultrasound is done to check the blood flow in your baby and your own body. A woman having Rh disease (incompatibility in between the blood of the mother and fetus), must go under this type of ultrasound as she is more likely to get miscarriage due to lack of antibodies.

2-   3-D Ultrasound

3-D Ultrasound gives a better photograph of your abdomen. This is done to assess if organs of your baby are developing well and you don't have any uterine problems.

3-  4-D Ultrasound

4-D ultrasound is the more sophisticated version of an ultrasound. It is the video form of ultrasound to check your baby’s movement in your womb.

4-D ultrasound

What you can expect from an ultrasound?

Most mothers get ultrasound reports having positive results. Even if you are diagnosed with some pregnancy-related complications, it can be treated if diagnosed in early stages. This is why; ultrasound is done to check the well beingthe of mother and child.

Too frequent ultrasounds are harmful

We generally feel anxious about what is going to happen. You become increasingly eager to know about your baby's health and your own health during pregnancy. But ideally, you should limit your ultrasounds during the whole gestation period. You should not undergo any additional ultrasound other than suggested by your doctor.

Unless recommended to determine some serious complications, you shouldn’t go for too many ultrasounds just to cure your anxiety.

Where should you go for an ultrasound?

Also, you should consult a registered reliable lab for your regular check-ups recommended by doctors. An untrained medical practitioner may tell you awkward results as many images of ultrasound tell anomalies if not assessed well.

Many times labs with unskilled practitioners offer low costs and quick ultrasounds. That seems appealing but should not be grabbed. Your health and your baby's health are more important than the cost of the ultrasound. So, you must consider the authenticity of the lab before going for an ultrasound.

Hope this article gives you a lot of valuable information on pregnancy ultrasounds. To know more about the types of the food to have during pregnancy, you can read our article on best foods to eat during pregnancy.

Also, if you are looking for a hospital for your baby’s delivery or prenatal care, you can call at +917899912611 for prior booking.

Have a happy parenthood!

Dr. Surveen Ghumman

About The Author

Infertility Specialist, Obstetrician Dr. Surveen Ghumman

Dr. Surveen Ghumman is an infertility specialist and gynecologist specializing in IVF, Reproductive Endocrinology, Recurrent failures of implantation, Embryology, Fertility preservation and Surrogacy. Dr. Surveen has completed MBBS from Christian Medical College, Ludhiana in 1986 and MD in Obstetrics and Gynecology from Government Medical College, Amritsar in 1991. She has also pursued certificate courses in ART and Clinical Embryology from Manipal University and fellowships in Minimal Access Surgeries. She has also pursued Micromanipulation in ART in the year 2011. Dr. Surveen is practicing at The Fertility Clinic IVF Solutions and Max Super Specialty Hospital. For more information, visit


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Ranjeeta Prabhu

I experienced Color Doppler advanced ultrasound once and I must say it is a really good way to look inside your uterus. But at the same time, I think one should not go for it multiple times as ultrasound radiations can harm the baby.

Oct. 13, 2018, 10:54 p.m. 5.0


Chandan Nigam

Are ultrasounds dangerous for the fetus? Please suggest!

Oct. 1, 2018, 4:31 p.m. 5.0


Chaitanya Bhagat

I always get confused with the dates when I should go ahead for the ultrasound. I think I will remember this after reading this article.

Aug. 23, 2018, 3:30 p.m. 5.0


Rohini Verma

Right time for me to learn about pregnancy ultrasound. 5th week and counting... Thanks for sharing!

June 5, 2018, 11:14 a.m. 5.0


Madanlal Sancheti

Thanks for sharing the detailed blog on pregnancy ultrasound procedure. It proved to be useful during my pregnancy.

May 13, 2018, 7:12 p.m. 4.5

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