U is for Ultrasound

U is for Ultrasound

For many, the ultrasound is a hallmark of pregnancy, when they get to “see” their little one! Let’s take a look at what a prenatal ultrasound is, why it is sometimes used as a medical test, and talk about its’ accuracy and usefulness. This information is not meant to be medical advice, but to help you make the best decisions for yourself regarding prenatal care and your unborn baby’s health.

Prenatal Ultrasound Birth Photography

What is it?

A prenatal ultrasound is a medical test or diagnostic tool that is high frequency sound waves transmitted through the abdomen. The echoes from these sound waves are recorded and transformed into what we can see as a picture. There are several different kinds of ultrasounds, ranging from early transvaginal ultrasounds to small handheld dopplers that can be purchased for home use. For the length of this post, we are going to focus on the benefits and risks of the abdominal ultrasound that can be recommended around 20 weeks, but there are links included that go very far in depth into these types of different procedures.

What is it used for?

The ultrasound can be used to “see” approximate pictures of the baby, amniotic sac and fluid, placenta and blood flow, and reproductive organs. It can be used to assess multiple babies or abnormalities, birth defects, gender, or placenta location. Most commonly, there is a 20 week anatomy scan recommended by doctors to measure the baby and check on their progress.

Patient prenatal 20 week anatomy scan

Is it always accurate or helpful?

In a short answer, not always. With certain conditions, as we mentioned above birth defects or true placenta previa, an ultrasound can identify those issues and help you plan for the best care possible. But in order to help you make the best decisions about your care, there’s a few points I want to go into, and there will be links included for you to read further if you wish.


4D ultrasound fetal imaging

Most commonly, the ultrasound is talked about with concern to due dates or to weights. Studies have shown that due dates are routinely better estimated by the mother tracking her last menstrual cycle than relying on ultrasound measurement. Every baby is different! This quote perfectly exemplifies why this standard of weighing unseen babies in utero simply isn’t reasonable.

Less than 2 percent of newborns in the US exceed 9 pounds, 5 ounces. Despite your slim chance of delivering a hefty baby, however, you’ve got a relatively high chance of being told that your baby is “too big.” A 2013 survey of new mamas revealed that 1 in 3—or 32 percent —were warned about this very possibility, but the average weight of their supposedly enormous babies at birth turned out to be . . . wait for it . . . less than 8 pounds.
— Genevieve Howland, Mama Natural
Happy expecting couple looking at ultrasound

Many of these concerns are just that, concerns. These aren’t all proven facts and are simply factors to be considered. If you are being pressured into ultrasounds and you aren’t feeling comfortable, do your own research and find a care provider who will work at your comfort level.

Midwives are a great option for prenatal and well woman care. They are usually more acclimated and comfortable with measuring your baby and determining their position without medical testing, and in general overseeing your care without routine interventions. Here’s a list of midwives in Sussex County!

Currently, there is no reliable evidence that ultrasound is harmful to a developing fetus. No links have been found between ultrasound and birth defects, childhood cancer, or developmental problems later in life. However, it is possible that effects could be identified in the future. For this reason, it is recommended that ultrasound exams be performed only for medical reasons by qualified health care providers.
— American College of Gynecologists

What About Keepsakes?

I know, I know! If you decide against an ultrasound, it feels like missing out. That black and white strip of photos is the most commonly shared thing when announcing your new addition to the family. Here’s some ideas you might find give you those same warm, excited feelings and help you share the news or create keepsakes.


Feel free to contact me directly or leave a comment with questions, concerns, or just to say hi! Check back soon for more blog topics, and updates on prenatal care, giving birth, and making memories in Delaware.

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