Understanding Ultrasounds

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.

Ultrasound basics

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.

Safety first

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!

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

How I Found out I was Pregnant

I’m a Type-A planner. When my husband and I decided to start trying for our first child, I read every book I could get my hands on. I scheduled all the dates on a calendar. I was ready to be a new mom.

So when I took an early pregnancy test on the day I had mapped out, I was almost certain it would come back positive. We had done everything we were supposed to do! But that second line never appeared. Even though it was a letdown, we knew we were still early in the process, and we were ready to keep trying.

A week later, I realized the period I had been expecting had never occurred. Without much hope, I took another pregnancy test -- and this time, the double lines were clear as crystal. It just goes to show that tests aren’t always correct!

By the time we started trying for our second child, I had gotten back into running and was training for my first half marathon since my son Noah’s birth. I couldn’t wait for this comeback race. I’ve been a runner since college and was looking forward to commemorating my official return. 

The marathon was great: My husband ran it, too, ahead of me. And Noah and his grandparents surprised me at the halfway point with cheers and encouragement. I came home feeling tired but empowered and proud of everything I had accomplished.

Of course, even in the midst of marathon training, I had planned this second pregnancy just like the first. I was armed with calendars and schedules to help build our growing family. It just so happened that the date of my marathon was also the date I could take an early pregnancy test.

If I learned anything from my first pregnancy, it was that tests aren’t always accurate, and planning can only take you so far. But I couldn’t help myself: I snuck off to the bathroom, hopeful, and just a little skeptical.

A big grin spread across my face as the double lines appeared. Even when you’ve planned it all out, it’s still a wonderful surprise to see that positive result!

Photo by Viviana Rishe on Unsplash

Pregnancy Announcement Times Two

My husband knew I was pregnant about ten seconds after I did, when I woke him up holding the positive pregnancy test. But neither of us knew at that point that we would be welcoming not one, but two babies into our growing family.

When I was about six weeks pregnant, I wasn’t feeling very well with cramps and light bleeding, and we were a little worried that something was wrong. Because it was a weekend, the on-call doctor advised me to go to the hospital. We were really nervous but hoping for the best. My husband had to wait in the exam room while they took me down to get an ultrasound.

As the ultrasound tech performed the scan, I couldn’t see the screen. She was asking me a lot of questions, and it seemed to be taking forever. Finally, she flipped the screen around and said, “Here’s the baby’s heartbeat. And here’s the other baby’s heartbeat.” I literally began laughing and crying at the same time. I certainly did not expect to hear that! She then printed a picture for me to take back to my husband.

When I came back into the exam room, my husband knew it must have been good news, because I was smirking. I could tell he had an immediate sense of relief but had no clue about the surprise pregnancy announcement I was about to reveal. I didn’t say a word and just handed him the ultrasound print out. Since it was still very early, you couldn’t see the babies, but you could very easily see two sacs.

He took one look at the picture and then looked up at me for confirmation. I held up two fingers. “And they both have heartbeats,” I told him. I will never forget the look on his face as he took this all in. It was a combination of so many emotions ranging from joy, shock, confusion, bewilderment, happiness, excitement, and perhaps a little bit of panic. He was too stunned to even say anything! Once he regained the ability to speak, we began immediately talking about the craziness of having two babies on the way and planning for their arrival. We celebrated with a milkshake on the ride home and couldn’t wait to spread the news to everyone about our quickly growing family.

Photo by Cassidy Rowell on Unsplash