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How Many Ultrasounds During Pregnancy Do Doctors Recommend?

how many ultrasounds during pregnancy

A pregnancy ultrasound relies on sound waves for creating a picture of the fetus on the screen. Ultrasounds are essential during pregnancy to monitor the health and overall development of the baby and detect pregnancy complications (if any). But how many ultrasounds during pregnancy do you need? When should you get ultrasounds and why are they necessary? In this article, we will share everything that expecting parents want to know about prenatal scans and their significance.

What can a pregnancy ultrasound detect?

A prenatal ultrasound can do these two things:

  • Examine the overall health of the baby and if it is growing steadily
  • Detect if there are any complications or conditions that seek medical intervention

For most women, prenatal ultrasounds are happy experiences as doctors don’t find any issues. However, if there are problems like birth disorders/ defects, an ultrasound can reveal the anomalies.

So, these are the reasons why doctors should perform ultrasounds during pregnancy:

  • To confirm there is a fetus developing in the woman’s womb
  • To check for molar pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, or other early pregnancy problems like miscarriage
  • To determine the gestational age of the baby and the due date
  • To check the movement, heart rate and growth of the baby
  • To check the position of the baby in the uterus
  • To check the placenta’s location
  • To find out if there are multiple babies (twins or triplets)
  • To examine the pelvic organs such as uterus, cervix, and ovaries
  • To examine the level of amniotic fluid
  • To detect problems with the bones, muscles, or important organs of the baby

Additionally, ultrasound is an important tool that assists healthcare providers in screening for various congenital conditions, that is, conditions a baby is born with. The purpose of a screening is to figure out if the fetus is more at risk to suffer from a specific condition. During some diagnostic procedures, the doctor also depends on ultrasound to insert a needle into the person’s body. Such procedures include chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis.

An ultrasound also becomes necessary during BPP test, a test that can evaluate if the fetus is getting sufficient oxygen supply.

How many ultrasounds during pregnancy?

Most people who have uncomplicated pregnancies opt for two ultrasounds throughout their pregnancy. However, you may require more if yours is a high-risk pregnancy, and your healthcare provider feels that additional ultrasounds are medically necessary. Factors that influence the number of ultrasounds a woman will receive during her pregnancy are her medical history, pregnancy complications, and the standard protocol of the gynecologist.

When should the first ultrasound take place?

The first ultrasound’s timing varies from one doctor to another. An early ultrasound is known as doting ultrasound or first-trimester ultrasound. This can be done between 7 and 8 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. If the ultrasound is done through the vagina, it is called transvaginal ultrasound. Early ultrasounds are essential because they can:

  • Confirm you are pregnant by detecting your baby’s heartbeats
  • Reveal if there are multiple fetuses
  • Take measurement of the size of the baby
  • Give you some idea about gestational age as well as the due date.

Nuchal translucency ultrasound during first trimester

Around 10-13 weeks of pregnancy, a NT (nuchal translucency) ultrasound is done. This ultrasound estimates the space at the back of the neck of the fetus. If the measurements are abnormal, the baby might be born with Down syndrome or congenital disabilities of the abdomen, skeleton, heart, etc. Other than the transabdominal ultrasound, measuring proteins and hormones through blood tests is also crucial.

So, is a nuchal translucency ultrasound optional or for all expecting moms? Some couples choose to get it done to eliminate concerns regarding the baby’s health. Sometimes, the doctor might recommend the NT scan if there is a family history of any kind of congenital disorder.

Anatomy scan during second trimester

When you step into your second trimester and start enjoying your motherhood journey, do not forget the routine check-ups. The anatomy scan during this stage (18- 22 weeks) thoroughly scans the developing organs and body of the baby.

ACOG states that a detailed ultrasound during pregnancy happens between the 18th and 22nd week. This thorough check-up is crucial, and it is also known as level II ultrasound. The ultrasound technician will check the heart rate of the baby and look for any abnormality in the heart, kidneys, liver, and the brain. They will also take measurement of the amniotic fluid, evaluate the placenta, and count the toes and fingers of the baby. As by now the baby’s genitals will become visible, the doctor will know your baby’s gender. If you want this to be a mystery and have no interest in knowing if it’s a girl or a boy until the delivery, communicate it to the doctor beforehand.

Are there any ultrasounds during the third trimester?

Most women do not need any ultrasound during the final trimester. However, if your doctor considers your pregnancy high-risk or if you did not get any screening done during the first and second trimester – your healthcare provider may recommend 4d ultrasounds during the third trimester for a healthy pregnancy.

Many parents-to-be don’t need an ultrasound in the third trimester. But if your pregnancy is considered high-risk—or if you didn’t get a screening during the first or second trimester—it may be recommended.

Are too many ultrasounds good for your baby?

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that there are no extreme side effects of ultrasound procedures. However, using frequent ultrasounds for any nonmedical purpose is not recommended. Although there are no confirmed ill effects of scans, when it comes to protecting your little one, you should not take any chances.

Another thing that you must remember about ultrasounds is that only trained professionals should do them to be able to predict the results accurately.

Are ultrasounds expensive?

Since we have told you everything about prenatal ultrasounds, how can we leave out the expense part? So, ultrasounds are not going to be cheap. The price that you pay will depend on various factors like the city where you live, the clinic you’ve chosen, and the experience of the healthcare provider. One good thing is that many health insurance plans usually cover ultrasound costs.

The Bottom Line

So, we may conclude by saying that ultrasounds during pregnancy is a routine procedure and there is no reason to be terrified about it. Now you also know how many ultrasounds during pregnancy are needed. As there are different types of ultrasounds, your doctor will tell which ones you require. The ultrasound schedule that works best for you will be determined by your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do you get an ultrasound in 3rd trimester?

Ultrasounds during the third trimester are not required for most people. However, for patients who have some complications, ultrasound might be recommended. There is no standardized protocol or guideline for using a 3rd ultrasound a few weeks before pregnancy.

Q. Is there any scan in 7th month of pregnancy?

If you want to know the overall health of the baby, a scan can be performed between the 24th and 40th weeks of pregnancy. This type of ultrasound will provide the necessary information about the baby’s growth.

References:

The information provided in our articles are based on research work of esteemed institutions and authors who are experts in their fields.

How Many Ultrasound Scans Do You Have During Pregnancy? – OMNI (omnigynaecare.com.au)

Ultrasounds During Pregnancy: How Many and How Often? | BIDMC of Boston

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