Obstetric ultrasound or sonography is a safe and painless procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of a baby inside the mother’s womb and the fluid surrounding the baby. It also shows pictures of the mother's uterus and ovaries. It is an excellent tool to monitor the wellbeing of the mother and the baby.
The procedure does not require any special preparation, but you may make sure you have emptied your bowels before the procedure. Too much gas in the gut may hamper the view. Some scans may require you to have a full bladder. You need to wear a two-piece, loose-fitting outfit for the examination. Ultrasound may be performed by placing the probe on the abdomen or through the vagina (transvaginal ultrasound).
You may be asked to lie on your back on an exam table that can be tilted or moved. To get clearer images, you may be turned to either side during the examination.
Obstetric ultrasound is done by a radiologist or a sonographer.
They will apply a warm water-based gel on the area being examined. The gel helps provide a clear view of the inside by removing any air pockets between the sonography transducer (probe) and the surface of your body.
During the test, the transducer will be placed on your body and moved in different directions for getting images from various angles. You will not feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure unless the transducer is moved on a tender area.
After capturing the desired images, the ultrasound gel is wiped off. The gel does not stain or irritate your skin or clothing.
A transvaginal ultrasound may be done to get a clearer and detailed view of the uterus (womb) and the ovaries. This may especially be done in early pregnancy. This imaging method involves the insertion of the transducer through the vagina. You must empty your bladder before the procedure. You will be asked to lie on your back with your feet held up on footrests or stirrups. The transducer used in a transvaginal ultrasound has a small tip with a protective cover. It is lubricated with a little amount of gel before inserting it into the vagina. Several images are taken from different angles to visualize the uterus and ovaries.
Often a Doppler ultrasound study may be done as a part of an obstetrical ultrasound examination. It uses a special ultrasound technique to evaluate the movement of materials in the body. This allows the visualization and evaluation of blood flow through arteries and veins in the body. The procedure uses the same transducer as in the regular obstetric ultrasound.
Why is obstetric ultrasound performed?
Obstetric ultrasound is a safe and painless procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the developing baby (fetus or embryo) inside the mother’s womb. It also shows pictures of the mother's uterus and ovaries. Obstetric ultrasound is an important part of antenatal (before the delivery of the baby) care. It can tell about:
- The presence of a living embryo or fetus
- The age of a pregnancy
- The expected date of delivery
- Presence of any abnormalities of the fetus
- The presence of an ectopic pregnancy (the embryo or fetus is present outside the womb)
- The position of the fetus inside the womb
- The position of the placenta and diagnosis of any placental abnormalities
- Number of embryo or fetus (diagnosis of multiple pregnancies)
- The amount of amniotic fluid around the developing fetus
- The presence of any opening or shortening of the cervix
- The adequacy of fetal growth
- Fetal wellbeing
Are there any risks of an obstetric ultrasound?
Obstetric ultrasound is used for diagnostic purposes and does not have any risks for the mother or the baby. It is a safe and noninvasive procedure since it does not involve the usage of any ionizing radiations, any needles, or injections on the patient.
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