Comprehensive Fetal Ultrasounds from Western OB/GYN
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 Western 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 sonographer will apply a gel to the belly and begin moving a device called a transducer back and forth across the area. This imaging test is routinely done after 10 weeks gestational age. Images created by the sound waves bouncing back to the transducer will be visible on a screen in front of you and the sonographer.
Often times if a patient is having a fetal ultrasound routinely done before 10 weeks gestational age, a transvaginal ultrasound will be used. This type of fetal ultrasound requires a probe to be inserted into 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 imaging is sometimes utilized to further evaluate a congenital defect like a cleft lip or club foot. However, if the baby is in a good position, the sonographer might be able to get a photo of the face of your baby for your enjoyment. 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
Fetal echocardiography and further imaging is often performed at a level II imaging center, also known as maternal fetal medicine if there is a suspected abnormality.
The Purpose of a Fetal Ultrasound
Ultrasounds performed early on in a woman’s pregnancy help to determine gestational age to get an accurate due date for your baby so our providers can offer the best care possible at the appropriate times. Around 20 weeks is when the anatomy ultrasound is performed and is when the sonographer and obstetrician will evaluate your baby to make sure it is growing appropriately and that all looks well with the anatomy from head to toe. This is also the time when you may find out the gender as long as baby cooperates of course.
In addition to these services, fetal ultrasounds are often used to:
- Determine the number of babies in the womb
- Monitor amniotic fluid levels
- Study the condition of the placenta
- 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. At our practice, we understand that every pregnancy is unique. For this reason, ultrasounds may be done at different intervals of the pregnancy for each individual patient in order to monitor and 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 a Western OB/GYN office location nearest you today by calling (952) 442-2137.