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Fetal Ultrasound

How It Feels

During a transabdominal ultrasound, you may have a feeling of pressure in your bladder. The gel may feel cool when it is first applied to your belly. You will feel a light pressure from the transducer as it passes over your belly.

There is normally no discomfort involved with a transvaginal ultrasound. You may feel a light pressure when the transducer is moved in your vagina.

Risks

There are no known risks linked with a fetal ultrasound, either to the mother or fetus. But you may feel anxious if the ultrasound reveals a problem with your pregnancy or fetus.

"Keepsake video operations" are ultrasound centers that sell ultrasound videos as your baby's first photo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends ultrasound scans only to obtain medical information about the fetus. Keepsake video operations may use the ultrasound machine at higher energy levels and for longer times than needed to get a "good picture."

Results

A fetal ultrasound scan uses reflected sound waves to produce a picture of your fetus camera.gif, the organ that nourishes your fetus (placenta), and the liquid that surrounds your fetus (amniotic fluid).

You may not receive information about the test right away. Full results are usually available in 1 or 2 days.

Fetal ultrasound
Normal:
  • The fetus is the size expected camera.gif for its age.
  • The heart rate and breathing activity of the fetus is normal for its age.
  • If the test is done late in the pregnancy, the fetus is in the head-down position.
  • The placenta is the size expected for the stage of the pregnancy and does not cover the cervix.
  • The uterus contains an adequate amount of amniotic fluid.
  • No birth defects can be seen. (Many minor defects and some major defects are not easily seen. Also, birth defects do not always show up early in pregnancy.)
Abnormal:
  • The fetus is growing more slowly than normal, is small, or is underdeveloped for its age.
  • The fetus is abnormally large for its age.
  • If this test is done late in the pregnancy, the fetus is in the buttocks-down (breech) position camera.gif.
  • Birth defects, such as absent kidneys or anencephaly, are present.
  • The placenta covers the cervix (placenta previa camera.gif).
  • The uterus contains too much or too little amniotic fluid.
  • The fetus is developing outside of the uterus (ectopic pregnancy camera.gif).
  • The scan shows abnormal tissue instead of a normal fetus (molar pregnancy).
  • The fetal heartbeat is not present. This can mean fetal death.

Many conditions can change fetal ultrasound results. Your doctor will discuss any significant abnormal results with you in relation to your past health.

What Affects the Test

Fetal ultrasound results may be affected by:

  • Being very overweight or obese.
  • Stool (feces) or air in the intestines or rectum.
  • An abnormally low amount of amniotic fluid.
  • Some fetal positions.
  • Not being able to lie still during the procedure.
  • A very active fetus.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 18, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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