What is the best time to get my first ultrasound?

The first pregnancy ultrasound is usually done within the first trimester, in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.
The first pregnancy ultrasound is usually done within the first trimester, in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

When you are first pregnant it can be challenging to know what to do. Things are strange and there are a lot of adjustments to make. You might find yourself wondering when you should go to the doctor and when you should get your first ultrasound. Hints would help!

Usually, the first ultrasound is done within the first trimester, in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. This is generally done to confirm the pregnancy and verify how long you have been pregnant. If there are no complications during the first ultrasound, then usually the second ultrasound is done during the second twelve weeks of pregnancy.

Most likely you will get either one of these two types of ultrasounds:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound. Usually done in the earliest stages of pregnancy, this type of ultrasound is performed with a wand-like device called a transducer. The transducer is placed in your vagina and it sends out waves in order to gather information. It’s done when the transabdominal ultrasound does not yield enough information.
  • Transabdominal ultrasound. This is done simply by moving a transducer wand over your abdomen.

Other types of ultrasounds that you may encounter are:

  • Specialized sonographic evaluation. These are done in certain circumstances. Usually, this means there is a suspected abnormality. If there is an abnormality, a more detailed assessment can be done to learn more about it.
  • 3D ultrasound. This will give your doctor a 3D image of your fetus. It can detect facial abnormalities or neural tube defects.
  • Doppler ultrasound. This ultrasound measures changes in how ultrasound waves move around moving objects. It can detect the baby’s blood cells and fill in the details around a baby’s blood flow.
  • Fetal echocardiography. Exclusively used to provide a picture of the baby’s heart, this exam can tell if a baby has a congenital heart defect.

Your first ultrasound can be used to:

  • Confirm whether or not you are pregnant
  • Verify the baby’s age to track pregnancy milestones
  • Confirm how many babies you are pregnant with
  • Figure out how fast your baby is growing
  • See if there are any congenital disabilities
  • Learn more about irregular pregnancy symptoms
  • Conduct another test
  • See the position of the fetus

What is the first trimester screening?

Typically, the ultrasound is done alongside a variety of other tests and general check ups. This is done to learn if there are certain risks for congenital disabilities. For specific disabilities, like Downs syndrome, the earlier the problems are known, the safer your baby is.

Other tests beside ultrasounds performed at the first-trimester screening are:

  • Blood testing. There are two separate substances that your doctor would test for in your blood. The first one is called pregnancy-associated plasma protein(PAPP-A). If found in high levels, it indicates that the fetus may be at higher risk for chromosome defects. The second is human chorionic gonadotropin(hCG), which also indicates the chance of a chromosome defect.
  • Cell-free DNA screening. This evaluation tests the baby’s DNA in your blood. It can detect specific chromosomes including the fetal sex chromosomes. However, it does not pick up on congenital structural disabilities like spina bifida or defects in the abdominal wall.

What should I expect during the first trimester screening?

There is nothing you need to do to get ready for your first-trimester screening. Sometimes you may be asked to limit the number of fluids you drink that day. This is not always necessary, so be sure to check in with your doctor. It’s best to schedule it as soon as you know you are pregnant.

Your doctor will likely ask you about your medical history or look into your medical records. They will also ask you personal questions about your lifestyle, medication use, any prior abortion, drug use, and other situational elements. Finally, they will need to know when your last period was to make an estimate of when you conceived your child.

They will likely give you a physical exam to measure your blood pressure, weight, height, and to calculate your body mass index. This information will help them measure the effects of pregnancy on your body.

After that, they will perform the necessary tests . Depending on the results of those tests, they could want to discuss them further. Depending on your visit, your doctor could then discuss with you possible lifestyle changes to make. This is also a good time for you to ask your doctor anything you want to know about pregnancy and what will happen during the next nine months.

Are there any risks involved with first trimester screening?

Ultrasounds have been used for many, many years. They are very safe. Very little ultrasound energy is used. This will keep you and the baby safe while still ensuring accuracy in the results. However, you should know that ultrasounds are not able to detect all congenital disabilities and can sometimes suggest one when there isn’t one.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/8/2021
References
Mayo Clinic: "Fetal ultrasound," "Pregnancy week by week."

University of Rochester: "First Trimester Screening."