We know that as mothers, you have been doing everything within your power to provide a safe environment for your baby since the moment you found out you are pregnant. Ultrasound is a very common kind of antenatal care. It is not mandatory and as parents, you always have a choice whether you would like ultrasound scans or not. So what exactly is “ultrasound”, how does it work and is it safe for you and your baby? Read on to find out!
What can ultrasounds show?
Ultrasound scans are not only exciting for new parents as they get the first glimpse of their baby, they can also give you the estimated date of delivery (from the measurements of your baby) as well as the gender of your baby. Scans administered towards the later stage of your pregnancy will be able to detect structural abnormalities. Where birth abnormalities are detected, further follow-up diagnostic tests will be carried out. You will need to consider what this means to you, and what it means to you and your partner if certain health conditions are detected. Some are life-limiting, whilst others require treatments and surgeries once your baby is born. Always talk and discuss with your doctor, who will guide you and assist you to find the best solution for you and your baby.
How do ultrasounds work?
Ultrasound scans usually take around 30 minutes to complete. In most cases, a successful and full image can be generated from a single attempt. This is subject to the weight and tissue density of the mother. Sometimes a second attempt might be necessary in order to obtain a clear image of the baby.
Ultrasound scans are administered by doctors and sonographers. You will find yourself lying down facing up in a dark room. A dark environment is necessary to generate good images of your baby. You will need to lift up your top to expose your tummy. Ultrasound gel will then be applied on your tummy to ensure sufficient contact between the ultrasound machine and the skin on your tummy.
A probe will pass over your tummy against your skin on the area where ultrasound gel is applied. As ultrasound waves are sent out from the probe into your tummy, ultrasound waves are also received by the same probe as the waves bounce back from your tummy. The waves received is what generates images of your baby.
This process is painless, though you will feel a slight pressure on the area where the probe touches your skin. Rest assured that this does not harm you or your baby in any way. The probe will need to be adjusted several times on your tummy in order for the probe to get a good view of your baby.
Ultrasounds and your baby
Ultrasound scans have been used by doctors around the world for decades to formulate “pictures” of babies in women’s womb. It is painless and it uses sound waves to do the job. Research and studies have shown no side effects to the mother or the baby from this procedure.
However, there have been studies in the past that show heat to be the cause of certain birth defects. This is why all ultrasound scans use energy that is “as low as reasonably achievable” as a balancing exercise between what is necessary to generate an image of your baby inside your womb, and what is safe. This is achieved by using a minimal amount of energy to do the job in order to minimize the amount of heat energy your baby is exposed to.
Therefore, so long you are visiting a qualified medical professional to have ultrasound scans administered, you have nothing to worry about. Trust your doctor and your sonographers, they know what they are doing!
So the verdict – are ultrasound scans safe? YES! (But only when you have it done by a professional!).