Early Pregnancy Ultrasounds
How Does Ultrasound Work?
Ultrasound is an imaging technology used highly in the medical field. By using high frequency sound waves, it generates precise images of the internal body organs and structures. Therefore it is used for visualization of tendons, muscles and also to capture the size, structure as well as any pathological lesions of internal organs.
This ultrasound technology is used since last 50-60 years by sonographers and radiologists for imaging of the human body structures and aid in the diagnosis of various medical problems. As it does not utilize ionizing radiation like in x-rays or CT scans, it is considered one of the safest medical procedures today.
How Are Early Pregnancy Ultrasounds Performed?
Ultrasounds have been used since the beginning for doing different pregnancy scans. With increasing advancements in the field of various technologies, its use has widely expanded in other medical branches as well. But it still remains the best choice of investigation in any pregnant female. During pregnancy, ultrasound is used to visualize the images of the baby,placenta,amniotic sac,ovaries and also to see the development of the baby in the mother's womb.
The Use of Transvaginal Ultrasound
The ultrasound scan procedure can be performed either on the surface of the skin(topically) by using a gel which serves as a conductive medium to help in getting a quality image or it may also be used trans-vaginally by inserting a tubular probe into the vagina.
This type of ultrasound does not in any way hurt you or cause any danger to the pregnancy.
When to Have the Early Pregnancy Ultrasound
The ultrasound scan are commonly performed at the first antenatal visit of the mother or between 6 and 9 weeks gestation and then the second trimester of pregnancy at about 20 weeks.
The total number of ultrasounds to be performed during the routine prenatal care is not fixed but depends highly on the health of the mother, baby, type of pregnancy (high risk or low risk) and also if the doctor desires for any screening purposes.
Thus a health care provider should be consulted to determine the scanning schedule which is most appropriate for her. At different stages of pregnancy, ultrasound is used for different reasons.
What is seen during the early ultrasound?
These days the use of early ultrasounds is rapidly increasing. The scans in pregnancy may be performed as early as 6-9 weeks of pregnancy.
In women who have irregular menstrual cycles or are uncertain about their LMP (last menstrual period), estimating the correct gestational age and due date becomes difficult by a doctor. In these conditions, early ultrasounds are used for accurate estimation of the date of confinement.
In general, earlier the scans performed, more accurate it would be in estimating the baby's due date and to map out the various milestones during the pregnancy. Early ultrasounds are also performed to confirm the presence of a viable pregnancy and also the location of the pregnancy. Thus the case of ectopic pregnancy where the embryo has implanted in the fallopian tube,cervix, ovary or abdomen instead of the uterine cavity can be detected early and treated accordingly. Presence of multiple pregnancies (twins or triplets) as well as confirming the hear beat rate of the baby/babies may be determined by the early scans. It also helps to assess the size of the baby by measuring its crown rump length (CRL).
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Early Pregnancy Ultrasound for Pain or Bleeding
When a woman experiences miscarriage symptoms like abdominal pain or bleeding in pregnancy, early scanning may be advised to determine the exact cause of the bleeding and thus the viability of the pregnancy as well.
By detecting certain abnormalities early in the pregnancy like the presence of an irregular or small pregnancy sac, much slower heart rate of the baby etc. may help to determine the possibilities of high risk of pregnancy loss and thus appropriate and timely care can be taken. It can also be used to check other structures like the uterus, ovaries, cervix, placenta etc. to screen for the presence of any abnormalities.