A prenatal ultrasound, also called sonogram, is a non-invasive procedure used for diagnosis. It basically uses sound waves to create a visual image of the pelvic organs, including the baby, placenta, and uterus. During the test, a sonographer is able to get a vital information about the health of the baby and the progress of the pregnancy. The first ultrasound is done usually at the 8th week of pregnancy. The purpose of an 8-week ultrasound is to confirm the date of the birth and the actual duration of the pregnancy. The gestational age and the number of fetuses are some of that information. We also get to know more about the growth of the baby and its position which can be extremely important when it comes to birth since some positions are not considered physiological and may need c section intervention. An ultrasound is a safe and effective way of monitoring the progress of a pregnancy. There are no adverse effects on a baby’s health and there are no side effects affecting the mother.
When Is It Recommended?
There are several reasons to have an 8-week ultrasound.
In this stage of the pregnancy, it might be the sign of a miscarriage. If the bleeding is not profuse, it can point to ectopic or molar pregnancy. It means that embryo isn’t situated inside the uterus, so the doctor would have to determine the location of the embryo. A molar pregnancy would appear as a cluster of grapes on the ultrasound. It is an abnormal placental tissue without a viable baby presented in the uterus.
If the heartbeat of the fetus is presented on the 8-week ultrasound, you can be certain that the progress of the pregnancy is going at a normal pace. Sometimes, the practitioner cannot hear it. This may be an error due to the doctor’s hearing and your doctor will certainly advise you to repeat the examination a week later before deducing that something is wrong.
Sometimes, the woman does not remember the date of her last menstrual period. The 8-week ultrasound can find out the gestational age of the fetus and predict the birth time.
The number of fetuses is an important information for the further course of the pregnancy since multiple pregnancy burdens the maternal body more than a single pregnancy would, so it may require additional attention and care.
Health and Condition of The Internal Sex Organs
All the organs in a body of the mother are involved in maintaining a healthy flow of the pregnancy. One of the most important organs are internal sex organs, thus we have to control the health and the condition of the ovaries and fallopian tubes which are just as important as the uterus.
How Will It Be Done?
An ultrasound test takes about 15 to 20 minutes. If a more detailed evaluation needs to be done, time of the examination might be longer.
It means that the scanning will be done through your lower abdomen. If you want this method of examination, you will be asked to drink 2-3 glasses of water so that you would have a full bladder before the procedure. It will make the visualization of the baby easier and clearer because the full bladder moves the uterus out from the pelvis into the abdomen. The sonographer will put a small amount of ultrasound gel on the skin of your abdomen and the transducer of ultrasound will scan through this gel. Trans-abdominal ultrasound can give us useful information about the size of the fetus, development and whether the pregnancy is intrauterine or ectopic.
It is an internal way of examination. It means that the sonographer will put the transducer inside your vagina and scan through the internal organ walls. Trans-vaginal ultrasound usually produces better and clearer images of the female pelvic organs because the transducer lies closer to these organs and to the fetus. The transducer used for trans-vaginal ultrasound is thin, about 2 cm in diameter. The transducer is cleaned and sterilized according to recommended protocols. Your privacy is respected during the ultrasound examination, as you will get a large towel that covers your lower body. During the trans-vaginal ultrasound, you may not need to have a full bladder. Trans-vaginal ultrasound will give us a clearer image because ultrasound waves do not pass through the layers of abdominal muscles which act as a barrier.
Both of these methods are completely safe for both mother and the baby, but you will always have a choice whether the trans-vaginal or trans-abdominal ultrasound is going to be performed.
What Can You See?
The development of the fetus is in full swing at the 8th week of a pregnancy. All the organs and limbs are formed. Baby’s arms and legs are getting longer. The hands fold at the wrists and elbows. Its heart divides into the left and right chambers. Aortic and pulmonary valves are distinct. The heartbeat is about 150-160 times per minute which is normal in this stage of life. All of these parameters can assure that there are no physical abnormalities. Conditioning and functioning of the umbilical cord and the placenta are visible. The amount of amniotic fluid present in the uterus is also assessed. The size of the baby is also measured to ensure that he/she is the right size for the gestational week. Your baby is now around 1.6 cm in length, and we start called him/her the fetus. You can see the nose, the eyelids and the ears of the baby. His/her arms and legs are also getting longer, so you can see your baby has started moving, though you still can’t feel it. In the 8th week, you can see also whether there is one baby or twins, but it is too early to determine the gender of the fetus through an ultrasound examination.
If the sonographer notices some abnormalities, he will do some additional tests to see if the fetus may not be viable. If this occurs, you may spontaneously miscarry or submit to a procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C). About half of the women submit on D&C.
8-week internal ultrasound scan showing the embryo with developing limbs.
It is an image of a fetus on the 8-weeks period after fertilization. We can see arm buds, thorax and abdomen, and also his head which is presented with ventricles and hemispheres of the brain.
HCG Quantitative Blood Test
HCG is a hormone that the body produces from the beginning till the end of the pregnancy. HCG quantitative blood test helps to determine the age of the fetus. Using the test, your doctor can diagnose abnormal pregnancies, such as an ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, possible miscarriage and some genetic malformations. This test is done during the first weeks of pregnancy. After the 7th week of pregnancy, the result of an ultrasound is more accurate than the test.
The importance of ultrasound scans should not be undermined. It can be quite revealing and it can ensure that a timely intervention is sought in case of a problem. Therefore, do not neglect your body and get the test done. The growth and development of the baby need to be monitored, and ultrasound has proven to be of great help.