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25th August 2014

Your guide to what your doctor is looking for in ultrasounds

You’re pregnant. WOW! 10 seconds later: oh my. Then a few minutes pass and most likely these pass through your mind as well: doctor, check-ups, tests, ultrasound!

One of the (first) most exciting times is when you first see that form on the screen. Then the head, that beating heart, the feet, the fingers. All thanks to the ultrasound.

If you were ever lost in the ‘when’ and ‘what’ (and ‘why’), here’s a guide to what your doctor checks for on your ultrasounds. Note that doctors and hospitals vary widely when it comes to how many and when they offer ultrasounds so we’ve limited this what are typically considered the “milestone” moments in a pregnancy.

Your first scan

is between your 6th and 8th week. This is when your doctor confirms your pregnancy and when you find out how many babies you’re carrying. You also get to listen to the first faint sounds of a heartbeat.

The second appointment

(week 11-13) starts checking for abnormalities, such as the presence of trisomy 21 for Down’s Syndrome or trisomy 18 for Edwards’ syndrome. By now the doctor can usually provide a very estimation of your delivery date.

The third scan

(week 18-20) is usually the longest and most comprehensive of them all. It’s that hazy printout you can stick on your fridge or download to a DVD and pass around the family. Also called the full anatomy scan, it gives an overview of your baby’s development, with a thorough examination of organs, arms and legs, the bone structure, blood flow patterns and a clear view of the baby’s sex (if you want to know, that is).

The fourth scan

(week 27 onwards) comes towards the end of your pregnancy marathon – when you’re about to begin that final sprint towards the finish line. It shows the position of your baby and a provides an accurate estimate of his or her weight and allows doctors to locate the placenta.

(Image: Sarah Campbell)

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