Most new moms-to-be can’t wait for the moment they first see their baby on an ultrasound screen. It’s likely you’ll leave your doctor’s appointment eager to discuss the fingers and toes you spotted on the screen or what position your baby was in with friends, family, and anyone who will listen. But before you go in for your first ultrasound, it’s helpful to know what to expect.
During an exam, your health care provider or an ultrasound technician (also called a sonographer) moves a transducer -- a device that produces high frequency sound waves -- across your stomach to see inside your abdomen. This produces an image of the fetus, called a sonogram. The image can be saved, printed, and taken home as a memento of your new baby. Ultrasound techology is a safe way for health care providers to monitor the health and safety of your baby and can help determine the due date along with information such as your fetus’s age, gender, expected weight, and potential birth defects.
You can feel confident going to your ultrasound exam knowing that the procedure is considered very safe. However, because the long-term effects of multiple ultrasounds aren’t fully known, it’s not recommended that you get an ultrasound for nonmedical reasons. For this reason, steer clear of places that give 3-D ultrasounds, which offer keepsake images but provide no medical benefit.
When to go
Ultrasounds can be performed any time during a pregnancy. However, it’s common to have one in the first trimester to determine your due date, and then another in the second trimester (between 18 and 20 weeks) to get a better look at your developing baby and determine the sex of your child. If your doctor wants to carefully monitor your pregnancy for any reason, you may need to come in for more ultrasounds during the third trimester. Finally, towards the end of your pregnancy, your health care provider may also do an ultrasound to determine the position of your baby.
What to expect
In order to get a good picture, it’s important to have a full bladder, so your doctor may ask you to drink a few glasses of water before coming in for your appointment. Otherwise, you don’t need to do anything to prepare for your ultrasound -- aside from getting excited to see your new baby!
If you have any questions about the ultrasound process or your baby's development, just ask. And enjoy poring over those incredible pictures of your new baby!