What is an ultrasound?
- An ultrasound scan is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from the inside of your body. It’s also known as sonography.
- The technology is similar to that used by sonar and radar, which help the military detect planes and ships. An ultrasound allows your doctor to see problems with organs, vessels, and tissues without needing to make an incision.
- Unlike other imaging techniques, ultrasound uses no radiation. For this reason, it’s the preferred method for viewing a developing fetus during pregnancy.
What are some reasons for having an ultrasound?
Your provider uses ultrasound to do several things, including:
- To confirm (make sure) you’re pregnant
- To check your baby’s age and growth. This helps your provider figure out your due date
- To check your baby’s heartbeat, muscle tone, movement, and overall development
- To check to see if you’re pregnant with twins, triplets or more (also called multiples)
- To screen for birth defects, like spina bifida or heart defects. Screening means seeing if your baby is more likely than others to have a health condition; it doesn’t mean finding out for sure if your baby has the condition. After an ultrasound, your provider may want to do more tests, called diagnostic tests, to see for sure if your baby has a birth defect. Birth defects are health conditions that a baby has at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, in how the body develops, or in how the body works
- To help with other prenatal tests, like chorionic villus sampling
- To examine your ovaries and uterus (womb). Ovaries are where eggs are stored in your body
- To check for pregnancy complications, including ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy and miscarriage
Does ultrasound have any risks?
Ultrasound is safe for you and your baby when done by your health care provider. Because ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation, it’s safer than X-rays. Providers have used ultrasound for more than 30 years, and they have not found any dangerous risks.