3. Specialized Tests You May Have
An ultrasound exam may be one of
the most exciting tests you have during pregnancy! You and your partner
can actually see your growing baby. The test is a valuable tool for
your healthcare provider because it enables him or her to check for
many details of fetal development. (Ultrasound, sonogram and sonography refer to the same test.)
Most healthcare providers routinely
perform ultrasound exams on their pregnant patients. Some healthcare
providers perform ultrasounds only when there is a problem.
Ultrasound exams pose no threat to you or
your baby. The possibility of adverse effects has been studied many
times without any evidence of problems.
Ultrasound gives a 2-dimensional picture of the developing embryo or fetus . It involves use of
high-frequency sound waves made by applying an alternating current to a
device called a transducer. The transducer sends and receives sound waves.
When can I have an ultrasound to find out if I’m having a girl or a boy?
Usually by 18 weeks, ultrasound can reliably determine if you’re carrying a boy or a girl.
As you lie on your back, the transducer
moves over gel that has been spread on your abdomen. The transducer
picks up echoes of sound waves as they bounce off the baby, then a
computer translates them into a picture, similar to radar used by
airplanes or ships to create a picture of the terrain under a night sky
or on the ocean floor.
Before the test, you may be asked to
drink 32 ounces (1 quart; almost 1 liter) of water. The water makes it
easier for the technician to see your uterus. The bladder lies in front
of the uterus; when your bladder is full, the uterus is pushed up and
out of the pelvic area and is more visible on the ultrasound. When your
bladder is empty, your uterus lies farther down in the pelvis and is
harder to see.
An ultrasound can
help confirm or determine your due date, determine if there is one baby
or multiples and determine if major physical characteristics of the
fetus are normal. You can have an ultrasound any time during pregnancy.
Whether you have an ultrasound during
your pregnancy depends on several factors, including problems such as
bleeding, previous problem pregnancies and your insurance coverage. If
your pregnancy is high risk, you may have several ultrasound exams.
A healthcare provider may order an
ultrasound to learn vital information about a fetus’s brain, spine,
face, major organs, limbs or sex. An ultrasound can show where the
placenta is, so it is used with other tests, such as amniocentesis. The
test can also provide information on fetal growth, the condition of the
umbilical cord and the amount of amniotic fluid in the uterus.
Healthcare providers perform an ultrasound for many reasons. Some of the more common reasons include the following:
•to identify an early pregnancy
•to show the size and growth rate of the embryo or fetus
•to measure the fetal head, abdomen or femur to determine the duration of pregnancy
•to identify some fetuses with Down syndrome
•to identify fetal abnormalities, such as hydrocephalus
•to identify the location, size and maturity of the placenta
•to identify placental abnormalities
•to detect an IUD
•to differentiate between miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and normal pregnancy
If you are at least 18 weeks pregnant
when you have an ultrasound, you may be able to determine the sex of
your baby, but don’t count on it. It isn’t always possible to tell the
sex if the baby has its legs crossed or is in a breech presentation.
Ultrasound at around 20 weeks may be done
to determine if the placenta has attached normally and is healthy. If
you have an ultrasound exam in the third trimester, your healthcare
provider is looking for particular information. Performed later in
pregnancy, this test can accomplish many things:
•evaluate the baby’s size and growth
•determine the cause of vaginal bleeding
•determine the cause of vaginal or abdominal pain
Vaginal probe ultrasound.
•detect some fetal malformations
•monitor a high-risk pregnancy
•measure the amount of amniotic fluid
•determine which delivery method to use
•determine maturity of the placenta
Breathing movements, body movements and
muscle tone can be checked. If the baby is too big, it may need to be
delivered by Cesarean delivery. If the baby is very small, other
decisions can be made.
The cost of an ultrasound varies. An
average cost is about $150 but can range from $200 to $500. With many
insurance plans, ultrasound is an extra—not part of the normal fee for
prenatal care. Ask about cost and coverage before having an ultrasound. Some insurance plans require preapproval for the test.
You may be able to get a CD or DVD of
your ultrasound; ask about it when your test is scheduled to find out
what you need to bring. An ultrasound may also include black-and-white
photos you can keep. You can usually take your partner with you to the
exam, so arrange to have the ultrasound when he can join you. You may
want others to come, such as your mother or older children. Ask if that
is possible when you schedule your ultrasound.
A vaginal probe ultrasound or transvaginal sonography may be helpful in evaluating problems early in pregnancy, such as possible miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
The instrument (probe transducer or other device) is placed just inside
the opening of the vagina; it does not touch the cervix and will not
cause bleeding or miscarriage. This type of ultrasound sometimes gives
better information earlier in pregnancy than an abdominal ultrasound.
Pictures are so clear with a 3-dimensional ultrasound
the image almost looks like a photograph. This ultrasound provides
detailed, clear pictures of the fetus in the womb. For the pregnant
woman, the test is almost the same as a regular ultrasound. The
difference is that computer software translates the picture into a 3-D
image. This advanced ultra-sound is used when the healthcare provider
suspects abnormalities and wants to take a closer look.
Time-Saving, Energy-Saving Tip
With the addition of a new
baby, you may need additional hanging space in a closet. Short of
adding on a new room, what can you do? One quick solution is to raise
the existing closet rod 12 to 24 inches, then hang another rod about 2
to 3 feet below it. Presto—you’ve doubled your closet space!