Ultrasound Testing

Pregnant Woman Receiving a Ultra-Sound from Her Perinatologist
Tim Hale/Getty Images

This is a very simple test in a lot of ways and can give your practitioners a lot of valuable information. However, it is important to note that the routine use of ultrasound is questioned, even by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in healthy, low-risk pregnancies.

The most frequent reasons for its use are:

  • Dating of the pregnancy
  • Rule out ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy)
  • Check for fetal viability, particularly after bleeding or other complication
  • Screening for certain genetic defects or anomalies
  • Assist in certain genetic testing procedures like Amniocentesis and CVS

How the Test Is Done

This test can be done with an abdominal or vaginal probe depending on the stage of the pregnancy and what they are looking for. The transducer or probe sends out high-frequency sound waves which are sent into the body. As they pass through they bounce off different objects and are sent back as electrical signals, which are then processed and displayed as the image on the screen. You may be asked to have a full bladder for better viewing of the baby and uterus.

For the abdominal ultrasound, you will usually slip your pants down to the top of your thighs and a cold gel will be applied to aid in the visualization of the baby. The transducer is moved slowly over your abdomen and the signals are sent back to the machine which will project the images of your baby.

Vaginal ultrasound is used earlier on in pregnancy, also known as transvaginal ultrasound. You will remove your pants and the vaginal probe will be inserted into your vagina for a better view.

When the Test Is Done

This test can be done at any point in pregnancy depending on the results that they wish to obtain. It is nearly impossible to see anything prior to the hCG levels of pregnancy reaching 1,500 - 2,000 mIU. Many women will have an ultrasound between 18-22 weeks known as a fetal anatomy survey.

How the Results Are Given

Depends on the use of the test. Usually, your practitioner will explain the results to you.

Risks Involved

While there is no proof that ultrasound is completely safe, the leading bodies of information suggest that when the benefits outweigh the potential risks (usually left undefined) then this testing is appropriate.


Depends on what you are looking for as to what can be used as an alternative.

Where Do You Go from Here?

Again depends on the reason you had the ultrasound tests performs. Ectopic pregnancies will be dealt with in one manner, where as the dating of pregnancy will be treated much differently. 

Was this page helpful?