In an ultrasound scan, high-frequency sound waves are sent through the uterus. These are reflected by the baby, and the returning echo is translated by a computer into an image that shows the baby's position and movements. The sound waves show up as gradations of different shades of gray; the firmer the fabric, the brighter it will appear in the picture. As a result, bones appear white and softer tissues appear gray or spotted, while fluids such as amniotic fluid appear black. It is this contrast between the different white, gray and black tones that allows your doctor to interpret the images correctly.
Most parents are looking forward to the ultrasound examinations, as they allow them to take a look at their baby. You may be allowed to keep a printout of the ultrasound image as a reminder, but some hospitals and doctors charge for it. However, you should not forget that ultrasound scans are not there to provide you with a picture album or betray your baby's gender. These are wonderful side effects, but the main thing is to see if your baby is fine and healthy.
Who does the ultrasound?Usually, these examinations are performed by your gynecologist. Special examinations are performed by gynecologists with special experience, training and particularly good technical equipment. These include, for example, 3D and 4D ultrasound scans, which allow you to see your baby much more accurately. But these are individual health services that are not paid by the health insurance companies. Just ask at your next check-up.
Why is the ultrasound scan done?Depending on which pregnancy trimester the examination is taking, your doctor may want to know if …
- is beating your baby's heart.
- You expect a child or several children.
- Complications such as a deep-seated placenta exist.
- there are indications of a developmental disorder.
- your baby's organs develop well.
- exactly what pregnancy week you are in (this is what your doctor will tell you about the baby's size).
- how much amniotic fluid you have and where the placenta is.
- if your baby is growing well.
Because ultrasound can detect the exact location of the baby and the placenta, doctors also use it as a complement to prenatal testing such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis.
Do I get my baby's gender through the ultrasound scan?Generally speaking, your doctor will be able to recognize the gender on the ultrasound image as of pregnancy week 16 - unless your baby has turned into an unfavorable position. In some clinics it is customary not to tell the women the gender of the baby because the information is never 100% sure. Your doctor will ask you if you want to know the gender of your baby, however: Absolute certainty you will have only after the birth. So many baby, who was considered a boy in the ultrasound, but was still a girl!
How is the examination performed?During an ultrasound scan, your doctor will rub a (usually cool) gel on your stomach and then move an ultrasound probe over your skin that will emit the sound waves for the ultrasound image.
To get a better picture, your doctor may use what is known as a vaginal probe during the first ultrasound scan between the 9th and 12th week of pregnancy. This is a long, narrow ultrasound head inserted into your vagina. Your doctor will provide the transducer with condom-like protection and plenty of gel to help it slide in more easily. Since the vaginal probe does not have to be inserted very far, it does not hurt you or your baby in any way.
Does an ultrasound scan hurt?No, a normal ultrasound scan does not cause pain.
One benefit of having a vaginal probe exam is that it is performed after you are prompted to empty your bladder. Therefore, many women find this examination more comfortable than when the ultrasound probe presses on the abdomen. Maybe the procedure is a bit embarrassing for you, but keep in mind: Your doctor will do such examinations every day. When you and your muscles relax, the vaginal probe slides in easily and it will not be in the least unpleasant for you.
When are the examinations normally performed?Under the Maternity Guidelines, your gynecologist will offer you three basic ultrasound scans - one in each trimester:
- 1. Basic ultrasound: SSW 9 to 12 (or 10th to 13th week)
- 2. Basic ultrasound examination: SSW 19 to 22 (or even 20th to 23rd week)
- 3. Basic ultrasound: Weeks 29 to 32 (or 30th to 33rd weeks)
Depending on whether you have particular difficulties, problems or risks in your pregnancy, or if you may experience pain or bleeding, it may be that your Physician / doctor offers you further ultrasound examinations.
Do I have to get an ultrasound?No, you do not have to do this investigation. Before the first examination your doctor will give you a leaflet about ultrasound examinations and inform you about the advantages and disadvantages of the examination.
The ultrasound gives you useful and reliable information about your pregnancy, which most women find interesting and reassuring. On the other hand, an ultrasound is not always error-free or does not show everything exactly. Especially when something seems unusual, it can make you unsure or even frighten.
Before the exam, think about what you want to know and what you do not. It's not just about being a boy or a girl. An ultrasound examination belongs to the prenatal diagnostics. So if you prefer not to know if your doctor suspects a developmental disorder, then you should discuss this with him / her and eventually sign a statement that releases your gynecologist from his / her duty to inform.
If you decide against an ultrasound scan, you will not incur any disadvantages in prenatal care. Ultimately, the decision for or against an ultrasound examination is up to you alone.
What happens if the investigation indicates problems?Of course you'll be worried if the ultrasound makes it look as if your baby does not seem all right. The scale of findings ranges from minor irregularities to serious problems.
In ultrasound you can see some diseases such as spina bifida (open back) very clearly. But on the other hand, the ultrasound in other diseases such as the Down syndrome can only provide clues - a deviation from the norm does not have to be synonymous with bad news. This can only be shown by further examinations, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, in which the baby's chromosomes are tested to gain secure knowledge.
If your baby has a serious health problem in the worst and luckily unlikely case, you should take the time to make a well-informed decision. Do not hesitate to ask for help. You may want to stop the pregnancy or you may want to prepare for the birth of a baby who needs intensive care.
In rare cases, the unborn baby must be operated in the abdomen (for example, in the case of a heart defect). If you are faced with such a difficult decision, there are organizations that can help and advise you, such as:
- www. caritas. de or
- www. ProFamilia. DE
Is ultrasound harmless?Ultrasound has been used during pregnancy for more than 30 years without any side effects.However, experts agree that ultrasound scans should not be performed without a valid medical reason. In addition, the dose should be kept as low as possible, so be just as long as needed for a diagnosis.
Not dangerous, but worth considering are the consequences that an unclear or unpleasant result of an ultrasound examination can have on you psychologically. Aside from any further examinations, it can be very distressing and confusing the knowledge that something is wrong or that your baby is not feeling well. You may have to make a difficult decision. You should always keep that in mind when choosing an ultrasound scan.