Pregnancy is a time of many new experiences and questions. For instance, have you started to notice weird things happening to your body? Just one small part of pregnancy. But, that’s not all. You will also experience new medical procedures that may add to the confusion such as wondering why it seems like you are experiencing cramps after ultrasound.
This is a time of excitement, but it is also full of unknowns. Many of these unknowns can be discovered through ultrasounds. For some women, the ultrasound experience is wonderful. For others, an ultrasound feels abnormal. To help you understand the importance of ultrasounds in pregnancy, let’s break it down.
What to Expect the First Pregnancy Ultrasound
If you have an early pregnancy ultrasound (before 20 weeks), you will most likely have a trans-vaginal ultrasound. If you have not heard of this type of ultrasound, you may be a little surprised. On tv and movies, we see the pregnant women expose her belly and have the gel rubbed on followed by the handheld device moved on the outside of her belly.
This is not what happens in a trans-vaginal ultrasound. The technician will use a vaginal probe that is inserted in the woman’s vagina. Since the fetus is still small now in the pregnancy, it is easier to get a closer look at the fetus this way (to view the uterus from the cervix).
Why This First Ultrasound is Important
This first ultrasound is important because it allows the medical team to see your baby’s heartbeat so they can access the viability of the fetus. Additionally, these early ultrasounds help determine the baby’s due date.
This early ultrasound is especially important for high risk pregnancies or for women who are experiencing concerning issues such as bleeding. This ultrasound allows the medical team to see the heart rate, the baby’s size, as well as the placenta.
What to Expect For the 20 Week Ultrasound
Some women do not have an ultrasound until around week 20. The week 20 ultrasound is a big deal because this is when the medical team and the parents are able to see more of the baby and see if your baby is growing as he/she should be. This is also the exciting time when parents can find out the baby’s gender.
Additionally, this is the ultrasound you are probably most familiar with from television and movies. This is the time when your lovely pregnant belly will be exposed while a wand is moved over your belly while you and your partner view your baby on the screen. As the pregnant mom, you just get to sit back and enjoy the marvelous show.
According to What to Expect, “Your baby will be measured from crown to rump, around the middle, and around the head, and his or her weight will be estimated. The four chambers of the heart will be looked at, as well as the kidneys, bladder, stomach, brain, spine and sex organs. The sonographer will also be looking at your amniotic fluid levels, the location of the placenta and fetal heart rate.”
What About the 3D or 4D Ultrasounds – Good or Bad?
More and more businesses are offering pregnant mothers the opportunity to have a 3D/4D ultrasound earlier and earlier in their pregnancies to view their babies up close. However, most doctors discourage these types of ultrasounds “just for fun.” While these ultrasounds may be used to help when there are concerns, there has not been enough research to determine the long-term effects.
Suggestions to Make the Ultrasound Experience More Pleasant
When you attend your ultrasound, dress comfortably. For the 20-week ultrasound, wear bottoms that rest comfortably below your pregnant belly. Pregnant moms are also encouraged to drink water prior to the ultrasound so that you have a full bladder. Having a full bladder makes it easier to see your baby during the ultrasound.
What You May Notice After Your Ultrasounds
Some women claim to notice cramps after ultrasound. There is no evidence that ultrasounds can cause cramping. Some cramping is normal during pregnancy, so this feeling may be a result of the pregnancy and not the ultrasound.
Additionally, rather than cramping, moms may be feeling a little sore. Depending on how much your pregnant belly is moved or prodded, you may feel some soreness afterwards. It is more uncomfortable than painful. If you are experiencing cramping, you should contact your healthcare provider.
To Wrap Up…
Ultrasounds are useful for viewing the fetus and determining the growth and identifying potential problems. And, ultrasounds are generally very exciting for moms-to-be. If you are concerned about your ultrasound or notice pain afterwards, we encourage you to contact your doctor as this may be evidence something else is wrong.