Every year, more than 3.9 million babies are born in the U.S. And almost all of those babies are born to moms who underwent an ultrasound or two to check up on the development of her growing little one.
But while ultrasounds are common, they can also be intimidating to new mothers. They don’t really know what the test involves, what it can tell them, or how to prepare.
Whether you’re a new mom getting ready for your first ultrasound or a soon-to-be-father who wants to help his baby’s mother prepare, keep reading to learn what you need to know about ultrasound preparation.
What Exactly Is an Ultrasound?
To be better prepared and less nervous for your ultrasound, it’s a good idea to learn what your exam is and how the technology works.
Diagnostic ultrasound is used when examining a growing fetus. This type of ultrasound utilizes high-frequency sound waves to create images.
As you’d learn in an abdominal ultrasound course online, diagnostic ultrasounds are used on more than just pregnant women. They are also used to look for a number of conditions and problems in your liver, spleen, kidneys, gallbladder, and more.
While both allow doctors to take a look at our insides, an ultrasound is not an x-ray and is in no way dangerous for your growing baby.
What to Expect During Your Ultrasound Appointment
Another great way to calm your nerves before an ultrasound appointment is to understand exactly how your visit and exam will go.
Once you arrive at your doctor’s office or clinic, you’ll be led to a private exam room. From there, some doctors will require you to change into a hospital gown while others will simply have you lift your shirt to expose your stomach to perform the ultrasound.
A sonographer, more commonly called an ultrasound physician, will perform your exam. They will ask you to lie back on the table and will apply special lubrication to your stomach. This jelly-like substance is used to prevent friction between your skin and the ultrasound tool.
Next, the physician will guide the ultrasound transducer over the skin. This will be painless and very simple. The transducer emits the sound waves, which bounce back and create an image that you will be able to see on an attached screen.
Your physician will help point out your growing fetus, and talk with you about what they see and how your baby is developing.
What Can an Ultrasound Tell You About Your Baby?
The most important thing that most first-time mothers want to know about ultrasound is what they can expect to learn.
Initially, ultrasounds may be used to determine whether or not a woman is pregnant.
Ultrasounds are mostly used to track your baby’s growth and development. The exam can tell your doctor whether your baby is growing at a normal rate. It can also help detect any potential health problems.
Identifying these health problems early on will allow your doctor to create the best possible care plan to help keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
On a happier note, ultrasounds are also used to determine a baby’s gender, whether you might be carrying twins or even triplets, and your expected due date.
When Are Ultrasounds Performed?
Most women will receive 2 ultrasounds during their pregnancies.
The first ultrasound is performed during the first trimester. This exam is used to determine your baby’s due date, as well as to check for any potential health issues or abnormal growths.
The second ultrasound is performed between the 18th and 22nd weeks of pregnancy. This exam is also used to check for abnormalities or problems, and may also be used to determine the fetus’ gender if the parents wish to know in advance.
Some women may have more than 2 ultrasounds during their pregnancy. If the first ultrasound reveals any problems or potential problems, additional exams will likely be used to track them.
Sometimes a mother will request additional ultrasounds because of genetic abnormalities in her family tree that she and the doctor want to watch for as well.
What to Do Leading up to Your Ultrasound
There is very little that you’ll need to do to physically prepare for your ultrasound.
If this is the first ultrasound of your pregnancy, your doctor might ask that you come to your exam with a full bladder. You’ll want to drink 32 ounces of water, juice, or any kind of liquid within 15 minutes of your appointment, and avoid using the restroom prior.
Unlike other types of ultrasounds, you do not need to fast before your pregnancy ultrasound. You should also continue to take any medications that you usually take on the day of your exam.
Other Types of Ultrasounds
While diagnostic abdominal ultrasounds are the most common during pregnancy, other types of exams are also available.
One type that has become popular in recent years is the 3D, and more recently the 4D, ultrasound.
A 3D ultrasound, unlike a traditional ultrasound, allows your doctor to see a deeper image, including the width, height, and depth of the fetus and the mother’s internal organs. This exam can help better identify any potential problems with a pregnancy.
A 4D ultrasound creates a moving image of the fetus in 3D. Not only does this enhance a doctor’s ability to examine the baby, but is also neat for new parents to see as well!
Before you schedule a 3D or 4D ultrasound, check with your insurance provider to see what kinds of exams are covered. Otherwise, you may end up with an unexpected bill.
Prepare for an Ultrasound
Pregnancy, and especially a mother’s first pregnancy, can be scary. There’s a lot to learn and prepare for, and everything is brand new.
Preparing for an ultrasound is important for keeping new moms comfortable and relaxed for their first exam.
If you’re looking for more answers to your pregnancy and healthy questions, check out this list of health sites like WebMD to help you get the answers you need.