Question: I’m a little freaked out about getting an ultrasound done. How does it work? Will it hurt my baby?
Answer: There’s no evidence that ultrasounds are harmful, and they’ve been used safely in pregnancies for decades. The person doing the scans (sonographer) will follow all guidelines to make sure that you and your baby are safe.
An ultrasound uses sound waves through your womb, which then bounce off your baby’s body. It turns these echoes into an image on a screen (like in the image seen above). The image allows the sonographer to see your baby’s position and movements. Studies have found that ultrasounds do not cause low birth weight, childhood cancers, dyslexia or hearing issues.
An ultrasound can tell your doctor:
• the size of your baby
• how well your baby’s heart works
• how well other organs (such as the spine, brain and kidneys) are growing
• the anticipated date of birth
The moving pictures from the ultrasound machine are like a movie. The pictures appear on a computer screen.
Before you go for the ultrasound, you’ll get info on where to go and how to prepare. For example, they may tell you to drink 32 ounces of water beforehand. This will help the sound waves travel better through the skin and tissues. After you arrive at the doctor’s office, you might be asked to change from your own clothing into a medical gown.
Once you are lying down on the exam table, the sonographer will put clear gel on your skin. This gel allows the ultrasound wand move more easily across your skin, and helps the sound waves to transfer into your body. During the ultrasound, you could feel light pressure on your stomach but no pain. The exam will only take about half an hour.
Here’s a video of an ultrasound that was done in the second trimester, at around 20 weeks:
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