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Why is ultrasound carried out in pregnancy?

Saturday, October 14th 2017. | Pregnancy

The most thorough checkup that a baby can undergo before it’s birth is through an ultrasound examination. The ultrasound can monitor fetal growth and development at every stage and development and can warn us about any potential problems that may occur for either or both mother and baby during delivery or after.

An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves which bounce off the baby’s body and the woman’s organs to give us an image of the developing baby as well as the mother’s reproductive organs during pregnancy.Ultrasound Scan 1

 
With an ultrasound exam we can monitor the baby’s heart rate, it’s timely structural development, it’s growth and any abnormalities that may have occurred in it’s brain, heart, kidneys, and liver. It is so useful that even the baby’s fingers and toes can be counted and the baby checked for any birth defects. The placenta is examined and the level of the amniotic fluid is ascertained.

While ultrasound is mostly used for medical reasons it can also be used for other reasons during pregnancy such as to give the expectant parents the first view of their baby and maybe to detect the sex of the baby. However, this practice is to be discouraged.

Early on in the pregnancy an ultrasound is usually carried out to confirm the pregnancy, to estimate the gestational age of the foetus and to calculate the expected date of delivery. The fetal heartbeat is checked upon, the placenta, and reproductive organs of the patient are examined, and any abnormal growth of the foetus or multiple pregnancy is ruled out.Fetal Growth

If an ectopic pregnancy is suspected then an ultrasound is a must for diagnosis.

Later on in the pregnancy, an ultrasound is performed in between weeks 12 to 24 (second trimester) and in between weeks 24 to 40 weeks (third trimester of pregnancy).

The ultrasound gives valuable information on the normal growth, position and sex of the baby. Any problems in the placenta such as placenta praevia and placenta abruptia can be detected. Multiple pregnancies can be confirmed and also intra-uterine death if it has occurred.

The foetus can be monitored for any structural abnormalities or birth defects or blood flow problems. The characteristics of Down’s syndrome can be checked. The level of amniotic fluid, the length of the cervix and any problems of the ovaries, uterus can be checked.

Along with a standard ultrasound, there are a number of more advanced ultrasound techniques that may be used when a more detailed image is required — including a 3-D ultrasound, a 4-D ultrasound, and a fetal echocardiography, which is an ultrasound that looks in detail at the fetus’ heart.

Transvaginal ultrasound

At the very early stages of the pregnancy the baby is very small and the uterus and fallopian tubes are closer to the birth canal than to the abdomen, so the ob-gyn might conduct a trans-vaginal ultrasound to get a clearer picture. The test is painless. The ob-gyn places the thin, wand-like transducer probe in the vagina. The sound waves bounce off the fetus and create images of the baby.

3-D ultrasound

At some high-tech centres, doctors use 3-D ultrasound to provide pictures of the baby with photograph-quality details. A 3-D ultrasound allows the doctor to see the width, height, and depth of the fetus and the reproductive organs.
4-D ultrasound

A 4-D ultrasound may also be called a dynamic 3-D ultrasound. Unlike other ultrasounds, a 4-D ultrasound creates a moving video of the fetus.

Doppler fetal monitoring.

This test bounces high-frequency sound waves off circulating red blood cells to measure blood flow and blood pressure. The test will determine if the baby is getting enough blood.

Fetal echocardiography

A fetal echocardiography captures an in-depth image of the fetus’ heart — one that shows the heart’s size, shape, and structure. This ultrasound gives your doctor a look at how your baby’s heart is functioning, which can be helpful in diagnosing heart problems in the baby.

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