The fear of the unknown can make even the strongest person feel vulnerable and anxious. However, receiving an ultrasound during your pregnancy is meant to empower you to give you answers to the unknown. Whether your pregnancy was planned or unexpected, you should receive an ultrasound to know if your pregnancy is located in your uterus, if it is viable, establish a more accurate due date than what your last period estimates, and to determine the number of fetuses.
A common misconception is you and/or your baby will be exposed to radiation. However, an ultrasound machine emits sound waves that form an image on the screen. It is completely safe and painless when used by a licensed professional for medical purposes.
Your sonographer or practitioner can perform an ultrasound one of two ways- abdominally or transvaginally. Typically, if you are in your early first trimester, you will receive both. Your ultrasound appointment will probably begin with a brief medical questionnaire. Be as honest as possible. The medical professional is only asking these questions to benefit you and your medical outcome. You may feel hesitant to divulge your private information. However, the practitioner is not going to share this information with anyone. And for your peace of mind, the professionals hear all sorts of medical histories and stories. You are probably not going to shock them with what you say. Once your technician has gathered all the necessary information, he or she will ask you to lay on the exam table.
The technician will then lower the lights in the room to help visualize the ultrasound monitor better. Then the technician will apply gel to your abdomen. Some clinics have gel warmers that heat up the gel to make the application to your stomach more comfortable. The technician will use a camera called a transducer to scan your abdomen taking pictures of your pelvic anatomy and of the pregnancy.
If a transvaginal ultrasound is warranted, you will be asked to undress from the waist down. The technician will provide a sheet or drape to help keep you covered to maintain privacy. Don’t worry if you are nervous about being exposed. The technician will do their best to keep you covered. If they do see you uncovered, rest assured they have seen many other patients undressed as well. It is not going to matter to them. The technician will then prep the transvaginal probe by placing a sheath over it and applying sterile gel at the end. You may be asked to help guide the probe in or if you are unable to insert it yourself, the technician can do it for you. It should not feel painful. It should feel similar to a tampon. The end of the probe is inserted into the vaginal cavity, which will provide a more detailed and clear image. Just like an abdominal ultrasound, the technician will take pictures of your pelvic anatomy and pregnancy.
Once all the required images are obtained, the technician may provide a printed ultrasound picture for you to take home. Depending on the protocols at the clinic you visit, your practitioner may give you a verbal preliminary report, which will later be confirmed by the reading physician.
Most ultrasounds will have normal results. However, 1-2% of pregnancies are ectopic. This means the baby will develop in the fallopian tube, ovary, or abdominal lining. These pregnancies can result in fatality for both the baby and mother when it ruptures. If an ectopic pregnancy is discovered during your appointment, the technician will send you to the hospital for confirmation and possible surgery to remove the pregnancy from the unlivable location.
Another unpredictable finding found in 30% of all pregnancies is miscarriage. This is confirmed when a fetal pole is seen without a heartbeat. Secondary to no heart tones, is a gestational sac that forms without a fetus. When this occurs, it is referred to as a blighted ovum. Typically, when a gestational sac is the only pregnancy structure seen, a repeat ultrasound is necessary to confirm the fetus has not developed. Many times, late ovulation can delay the appearance of a fetus on an ultrasound.
If your practitioner has confirmed that your pregnancy is located in your uterus, is a viable a singleton or multiple gestation, and provided you with a due date, you can feel confident knowing you have made a positive impact on your health by seeking this preliminary information. It’s not just about making healthy choices for your body; but for a healthy mind as well. Scheduling and receiving your first ultrasound can put your mind at ease for the uncertainties you may have.
At Choices Women’s Clinic in Orlando, Florida, we can answer those uncertainties and empower you with the information you need with our free limited ultrasounds, which are performed only by licensed professionals. If you would like to schedule an appointment to get the answers and support you need, please call our office or fill out a request form on our website.