Having an ultrasound during your pregnancy is very common. Ultrasound tests use high frequency sound waves that are transmitted through the abdomen via a transducer. Echoes are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images of your baby. Ultrasound uses unharmful sound waves as opposed to radiation that is used for x-rays.
Your doctor or healthcare provider may order one or several for a variety of reasons:
- To determine when your baby is due.
- To evaluate your placenta.
- To evaluate your amniotic fluid
- To evaluate the size of your baby.
- To evaluate the organs and well-being of your baby at 20 weeks.
If your baby has been found to have growth issues, or there are concerns with your placenta, or you’ve been diagnosed with certain health issues (eg. gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia), it may be recommended to have several ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.
But are 1 or more ultrasounds safe? According to WebMD, multiple ultrasound examinations during pregnancy are unlikely to cause any lasting harm to the developing fetus. And the World Health Organization review of the literature in 2009 concluded that “exposure to diagnostic ultrasonography appears to be safe”.
On the other hand, some doubt has been expressed regarding the scanning intensities used today which are 6-8 times higher than they were in the 1990’s when ultrasound safety was assessed.
When there is a decision to perform an ultrasound or any other procedure, the benefits are weighed against any potential risks. For example, if a fetus is not growing adequately, it is essential to follow the ability of the placenta to do its job. This requires Doppler ultrasound studies. If a patient has been bleeding and the position of the placenta is determined to be covering the cervix (placenta previa), an ultrasound could potentially save the life of both mom and baby.
In conclusion, ultrasounds during pregnancy appear to be safe, but it is recommended that you discuss the necessity of the procedure with your health care provider. A healthy mom and a healthy baby is the primary goal.