We are very fortunate nowadays that we have been provided with science. Science provides a golden opportunity to see our bundle of joy as early as a few weeks old through fetal ultrasound. My first ultrasound conducted at 12 weeks of pregnancy enabled me to experience the joy of knowing in advance that I will soon become a mother of not just one but two babies! My second ultrasound done at 18 weeks revealed straight to my eyes that my twins are gonna be both males! On the 28th week of my pregnancy, my obstetrician recommended a congenital anomaly scan (CAS) which still makes use of an ultrasound. I was happy to learn that my babies have no physical defects and are growing well. I could only imagine the anxiety I would have felt about this pregnancy had there been no fetal ultrasound, which allowed me to take a sneak peek of my babies.
Fetal ultrasound is a test done during pregnancy which gives a real-time image of the baby and other structures forming inside the uterus. It is safe and unlike x-ray, an ultrasound machine uses sound waves that become deflected as it passes through different structures inside, forming pictures that are displayed into the TV screen. The pictures may be in black and white or in color.
There are two types of fetal ultrasound. At 12 weeks or less age of gestation, since the uterus is still a pelvic organ, the fetus can be detected by performing a transvaginal ultrasound wherein a transducer is inserted into the woman’s vagina and it will be moved and rotated to get a view of the tiny fetus. Beyond 12 weeks age of gestation, the uterus has grown above the level of the pelvic bone, thus a transabdominal ultrasound can be done. This is simply performed by uncovering your abdomen. A gel will be spread on your belly to enhance the transduction of sound waves. Then, a small handheld transducer will be pressed on the gel and will be moved around your belly to get a good picture and evaluation of the structures inside.
Fetal ultrasound is performed by a radiologist or obstetrician and information is gained at different times during your pregnancy. A first trimester (1-12 weeks) fetal ultrasound is done to find out the following: 1) if you are pregnant with more than 1 fetus; 2) to accurately determine the age of gestation; and 3) to rule out ectopic pregnancy (a fetus growing in sites other than the uterus). A second trimester (13-24 weeks) fetal ultrasound is done to 1) detect major birth defects such as spinal cord defects and heart problems; 2) look at the size and position of the fetus and placenta; 3) determine the amount of amniotic fluid; 4) to evaluate the efficiency of blood that is delivered to the fetus by assessing the speed and direction of blood passing through the uterine arteries; and 5) to estimate the risk of a chromosome defect, such as Down syndrome. A third trimester fetal ultrasound is done to see how your pregnancy is progressing and to assess the fetal well-being.
There are no known risks and side effects associated with fetal ultrasound, either to the mother or the fetus. Your spouse may be encouraged to be present during the test as your baby unfolds itself on the TV screen for the first time. Often, a photograph, videotape or CD of the ultrasound images of your baby is provided to the parents for keepsake. Indeed, not only does fetal ultrasound provide us with valuable information regarding our baby’s health condition, it has also allowed us to experience pregnancy to the fullest and with so much wonderful memories of our little ones even before they are born.