Ultrasound diagnostic imaging is used in a variety of medical settings, though many individuals are most familiar with this examination because of its consistent use throughout a woman’s pregnancy. This particular type of ultrasound is referred to as a fetal ultrasound.
The Basics About Fetal Ultrasounds
All ultrasounds are produced using sound waves that are delivered to a specified area of the body and then bounce back to a transmitting device that converts the length of the sound waves to create a detailed image of the patient’s internal structures. This type of technology is extremely useful in the diagnosis of many medical conditions, or in this case, to routinely check in on the development of a fetus.
The standard type of ultrasound used during these routine visits to Cedar Rapids OB/GYN are known as a transabdominal fetal ultrasound. This means that the procedure is performed in the abdominal area.
During your transabdominal fetal ultrasound, a technician will apply a gel to the belly and begin moving a device called a transducer back and forth across the area. Images created by the sound waves bouncing back to the transducer will be visible on a screen in front of you and the technician.
Often times if a patient is having a fetal ultrasound performed during the early stages of her pregnancy, a transvaginal ultrasound will be used. This type of fetal ultrasound requires a probe to be inserted through the vagina, which helps to create clearer, more detailed images of the baby.
3D and 4D Fetal Ultrasounds
Most fetal ultrasound imaging tests will only produce a static 2D image for patients to view. However, recent technologies have allowed for more defined images to be created that can give a 3D, or even a 4D rendering of the developing fetus.
3D ultrasound images allow your obstetrician to assess the height, length, and width of the baby, while also showing them more detailed images of the patient’s reproductive system as well. A 4D ultrasound has these same capabilities, but also has the added benefit of producing a moving video of the fetus.
Other Fetal Examinations
There are a number of other techniques and tests that can evaluate more specific aspects of a growing baby’s health, including the analysis of their blood flow, heart function, facial structure, and more. Such tests are typically only conducted if your obstetrician suspects there may be a problem during your baby’s development, and so they are not implemented for every patient. These additional ultrasound imaging tests include:
- Doppler ultrasound
- Fetal echocardiography
- Specialized sonographic evaluation
The Purpose of a Fetal Ultrasound
Generally, when a woman reaches between 18 and 20 weeks of her pregnancy it will be time to conduct an ultrasound. As mentioned, this diagnostic procedure is used to assess the ongoing growth and development of the fetus. More specifically, fetal ultrasounds are used to:
- Confirm a pregnancy
- Determine the number of babies in the womb
- Monitor amniotic fluid levels
- Study the condition of the placenta
- Determine the baby’s gender
- See where the fetus is located and how it is positioned
- Investigate potential birth defects
- Evaluate how quickly the fetus is growing
- Diagnose possible complications with the pregnancy
Not all of these evaluations will be available during the first few weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. This is why patients are expected to return to your doctor every few weeks to complete another ultrasound and to address any changes in fetal development.
To schedule your first ultrasound, or to inquire about getting a more detailed ultrasound for any abnormal symptoms you have experienced, please contact our office in Cedar Rapids today by calling (319) 363-2682. You may also request an appointment with one of our highly skilled obstetricians by completing our online form.