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Fetal ultrasound is a test used during pregnancy. It creates an image of the baby in the mother's womb (uterus). It’s a noninvasive way to check the health of an unborn baby. During a fetal ultrasound, the baby’s heart, head, and spine are measured. The test may be done either through the mother's abdomen (transabdominal) or vagina (transvaginal).
There are several types of fetal ultrasound:
Ultrasound uses an electronic wand called a transducer to send and receive sound waves. No radiation is used during the procedure. The transducer is moved over the abdomen, and sound waves move through the skin, muscle, bone, and fluids at different speeds. The sound waves bounce off the baby like an echo and return to the transducer. The transducer converts the sound waves into an electronic image on a computer screen.
Fetal ultrasound is a routine part of prenatal care in the U.S. This is because it’s a low risk procedure that gives important information. The general health of a pregnancy can be easily checked. A routine prenatal ultrasound can check for defects or other problems in:
A fetal ultrasound can also show:
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to advise a fetal ultrasound.
All procedures have some risks. The risks of this procedure include:
In some cases, an ultrasound may appear to show a problem that is not there (false-positive). The test can also miss a problem that is there (false-negative). In some cases, additional testing may be needed after a fetal ultrasound.
Fetal ultrasound is sometimes offered in nonmedical settings. This is done as a way to give keepsake images or videos for parents. In these cases, it’s possible for untrained staff to misread the images and give parents incorrect information. Make sure to have fetal ultrasound done by trained medical staff. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions.
Your risks may vary depending on your general health and other factors. Ask your healthcare provider which risks apply most to you. Talk with him or her about any concerns you have.
Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Ask him or her any questions you have. You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully. Ask questions if anything is not clear.
Tell your healthcare provider if you:
Make sure to:
Drink several glasses of water before the procedure. You will need to have a full bladder. This helps give clearer images.
You may have your procedure as an outpatient. This means you go home the same day. Or it may be done as part of a longer stay in the hospital. The way the procedure is done may vary. It depends on your condition and your healthcare provider's methods. In most cases, the procedure will follow this process:
You will be given tissue to wipe off excess gel. You can go home shortly after the test. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about the results. Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.