"Well, an ultrasound is essentially a way to get a picture of the baby in real time. It uses a small transducer about the size of my hand, and it basically uses that to use ultrasound or ultrasound frequency, to get a picture of the layers of the tissue through the abdomen. There's also a probe that can go inside the vagina, which has the ultrasound probe right on the end of a long tube, because that allows the ultrasonographer to get closer to where the baby might be growing, to get closer to the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. So for gynecologists, a transvaginal ultrasound using that probe is often the way we go, because we can see ovaries, fallopian tubes and the uterus and any early developing pregnancies a whole lot clearer with a transvaginal ultrasound. So you may need to have a transvaginal ultrasound to date your pregnancy to help determine exactly how far along that baby is, so that you can firm up on your due date with your healthcare provider.
Sometimes the menstrual period doesn't give you a firm due date and that dating ultrasound, which is done very early in the pregnancy, measures the baby and helps firm up, so, you know exactly when your due date will be. Now you can deliver for two weeks on either side of that due date, but that due date is set in stone after you've had a dating ultrasound. Another reason for an ultrasound would be, as I said, to rule out ectopic pregnancy, and as your pregnancy progresses, normally your healthcare provider would order an ultrasound around, say, 18 to 20 weeks, which looks at the baby's anatomy. So now at 18 to 20 weeks, the baby is big enough to see on ultrasound so that we can look at things like the cranium or the head, brain development. We can measure the limbs or the long bones.
We can measure the abdominal circumference, and we can make an estimate as to whether that baby in the 18 to 20 week mark is developing properly, all the organs are developing properly and if the baby's growing properly. Now, if there's any indication that there's a problem on the ultrasound for the baby's heart, baby's hearts are better seen around 28 weeks when they're a little further along, but that's only required if there's a problem at the 18 to 20 week ultrasound. Later in pregnancy, we can put the ultrasound on and that would be on the belly, not the vagina one anymore, on the belly, to determine whether the baby's head is up or whether the baby's head is down, and also to look at some of the movements of the baby. That's called a biophysical profile, which gives us one of the measures of how healthy the baby is, how active the baby is, how much fluid is around the baby, those kinds of measurements that give us just an idea, look and see about the wellbeing of the baby. So those are the reasons you may need an ultrasound and the types of ultrasound, abdominal or transvaginal that may be required at different ages and stages of your pregnancy to help give us information as to the health and wellbeing of your baby."
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