You and your family are excited to see your baby. You have seen 3D ultrasound pictures in magazines and commercials, and they are amazing, right?
The sonographer begins scanning, and you don’t recognize anything that looks even remotely like a baby.
What’s going on?!
If you’ve ever had an ultrasound during your pregnancy, you have probably experienced this. Today, we will be talking to Catherine Ross, the lead OB sonographer at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth. In this episode, she will tell us how OB ultrasounds are performed, so that you know more about what to expect when you have your ultrasound.
Here some quick pointers to guide you through the process of getting an ultrasound, how to get the most out this experience, and what to expect so you can feel confident and knowledgeable!
How far along are you?
First of all, babies will look very different depending on how far along you are in pregnancy.
Early in the first trimester, they look a little like gummi bears, then tadpoles, then more like people. Later on, when we are looking at particular organs, you may not recognize what is on the screen. It’s kind of like one of those 3D pictures that you have to stare at for a while. Feel free to ask what the sonographer is looking at.
What am I looking at on the screen?
We may not have the entire baby on the screen. We look at individual parts, and these may not look familiar to you. The femur, the liver, the palate? This may be a little boring for you, but it’s important for us, so be patient, and we will get to the fun stuff as soon as we can.
You may be disappointed if we can’t get a cute picture of the baby’s face. We try, but babies are not always cooperative. They may be face-down or have a hand or foot in front of the face. Or if mom’s abdomen is more fluffy, the images may not be as clear as you would like.
Got questions? Ask!
Ask as many questions as you like. I want you to have a clear understanding of what we are seeing, and what it means for you and your baby. If I see a birth defect, or a growth problem, or a concern about the placenta or fetal movement or amniotic fluid, we will talk about it. I will explain what the next steps are to evaluate and treat the issue.
We perform ultrasounds all day every day in a Maternal-Fetal office, and sometimes we forget that this is new for you, and you may not see the same things that we do. We will make an effort to communicate with you and explain what we’re doing.
The sonographer doing your ultrasound may answer some of your questions, but not all of them. For instance, she can tell you “This is the foot.” But when you ask if it looks normal, she may say “The doctor will answer that question for you.” Don’t be frustrated. It’s my job (the doctor) to talk with you about what’s normal and what is not.
Some things to be aware of during your ultrasound
Sometimes, pregnant women feel dizzy or nauseated when lying on their backs for a while. If this happens to you, let us know and we will reposition you on your side or take a little break.
Sometimes, we recommend a vaginal ultrasound. The vaginal probe looks enormous, but it only goes in a couple of inches, and shouldn’t hurt. Vaginal ultrasound allows us to look more closely at your cervix to make sure that you are not dilating early. And in the first trimester, we may be able to see the baby better when we look with a vaginal probe.
At the end of the visit
I may ask you to come back in a few weeks for another ultrasound. We may need to obtain better views of a particular area, or we may want to make sure that the baby is growing appropriately.
Watch the video to get a clear idea of what happens in the ultrasound room! Next episode, Catherine will tell us how she became a sonographer, what training is required, and what she does in the course of her day. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s super-smart, laser-focused, and really funny.)