Most people recognize ultrasounds as those fuzzy black and white images new parents bring home from the doctor. But ultrasounds (also commonly called sonograms) are used for much more than simply planning a gender reveal party. These diagnostic imaging tests are an integral part of pre and post pregnancy healthcare.
How Does An Ultrasound Work?
Ultrasound technology sends sound waves into your body, collects the waves that bounce back, and then sends these waves to a computer, which creates the images you see on the screen. It is a method of seeing the internal parts of your body, or your baby within your uterus.
Why Do Pregnant Women Need An Ultrasound?
At Open Arms Real Choices Clinic, our licensed and trained medical staff offer limited obstetric ultrasound exams. These exams are ordered to detect the baby’s heartbeat, confirm a uterine pregnancy, and determine the gestational age of the preborn baby. and are provided at no cost to the patients at Open Arms Clinic.
It is vital for a pregnant woman to have this limited form of ultrasound in early pregnancy in order to confirm that the pregnancy is in the uterus and not the fallopian tubes, and to confirm a viable heartbeat and due date.
Does An Ultrasound Hurt?
There are two types of ultrasound exams for pregnant patients – abdominal and trans-vaginal.
An abdominal ultrasound is performed with the use of a transducer or scanner which emits ultrasound waves. A clear, water–based gel is applied to the skin to help the transducer make good contact with the woman’s abdomen. The transducer is pressed firmly against the skin and moved over the lower abdomen. There is usually no pain associated with an abdominal ultrasound, however a full bladder may make it slightly uncomfortable.
A trans-vaginal ultrasound introduces a smooth, wand-like imaging device into the vagina to generate images of your internal organs – such as the uterus or ovaries. This allows for enhanced visualization because the transducer is closer to the area being examined. In either scanning process the sonogram pictures will be forwarded to and read by a doctor.
Are Ultrasounds Safe?
“There are no known harmful effects associated with the medical use of sonography. Widespread clinical use of diagnostic ultrasound for many years has not revealed any harmful effects.”  Ultrasounds do not use radiation, unlike other procedures, such as X-rays.
What Can An Ultrasound Detect?
A baby’s heartbeat begins beating at 21 days after conception. An ultrasound scan can detect a fetal heartbeat sometimes as early as 5 weeks 6 days. Most often an ultrasound exam is to help your care provider determine your baby’s due date and to make sure your baby is growing as it should. It may also be used to detect some birth defects or diagnose a miscarriage. With today’s advancements, advanced obstetric ultrasounds can provide 3D and 4D imaging of your baby, showing specific human features as rounded cheeks and even the tilt of the nose.
Do you think you might be pregnant? Open Arms Clinic offers no-cost limited obstetric ultrasounds to confirm the viability of pregnancy. Limited obstetric ultrasound appointments are scheduled by the nurse after your pregnancy test. Open Arms offers all patients a current physician referral form for establishing prenatal care or medical follow up with area care providers. Services are free and confidential.
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 (“About Your Exam”, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, December 2002