What Are Pregnancy Scans And When Should You Get Them Done

What Are Pregnancy Scans And When Should You Get Them Done

21 Feb 2022 | 4 min Read

Sayani Basu

Author | 342 Articles

Giving birth can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a new mom. In fact, the feeling of carrying your baby inside your body is unparalleled. 

This journey, however, can become more joyous and fulfilling when you know that your baby is healthy and developing well. This is where ultrasound scans come into play.

Pregnancy Scans: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Ultrasounds done during pregnancy help track the baby’s development. During a pregnancy ultrasound, your doctor uses a plastic transducer to transmit high-frequency sound waves through your uterus. These sound waves send back signals to a machine that converts them into images of the fetus.

Besides monitoring your baby’s growth, ultrasounds can also detect abnormalities, predict your due date. They determine whether you’re carrying multiples and show the position of your placenta.

Take a look at the common types of pregnancy ultrasounds and when should you schedule them:

1. Early pregnancy ultrasound (6-8 weeks) 

The first ultrasound is also known as a baby sonogram. It might take place when you’re six to eight weeks pregnant.

Some doctors conduct it only for certain high-risk pregnancy conditions like bleeding, abdominal pain, and history of birth defects or miscarriage.

An early pregnancy ultrasound is done transvaginally so that the doctors get a clear picture of the fetus. In this case, the doctor will place a thin wand-like transducer probe that transmits high-frequency sound waves through your uterus.

The sound waves send signals back to a machine that converts these reflections into a black and white image of your baby.

During your first ultrasound, your doctor is looking for:

  • Viability of pregnancy
  • Fetal heartbeat
  • Fetal size
  • Single or multiple pregnancies

2. Dating ultrasound (10-13 weeks)

Those who skip the six to eight week ultrasound might have a “dating ultrasound” around week 10 to 13 of pregnancy.

This gives parents the same type of information – due date, your baby’s measurement from head to bottom, the number of babies in the womb, and the fetal heartbeat.

3. Nuchal Translucency ultrasound (14-20 weeks) 

Between 14 and 20 weeks, women can have a nuchal translucency (NT) to check for down syndrome, heart defects, or other chromosomal abnormalities.

You should consider getting it in the following cases:

  • If the screening test has revealed a complication
  • If you are 35 years of age and above
  • If you have a family history of certain birth defects

In a nuchal translucency screening, the doctor uses an ultrasound to gauge the thickness at the back of the baby’s neck. They also measure hormones and proteins with a blood test.

A thicker neck may indicate an increased risk for birth defects like down syndrome and trisomy 18.

4. Anatomy scan (18-20 weeks) 

The anatomy scan is generally done between weeks 18 and 20, in the second trimester. It is the most thorough check-up you and your baby will have before the birth.

During this anatomy scan, the doctor will check your baby’s heart rate as well as look for abnormalities in their brain, heart, kidneys, and liver.
They will also count your baby’s fingers and toes, check for birth defects, examine the placenta, and measure the amniotic fluid level.

Several women don’t need an ultrasound in the third trimester. But if you have high blood pressure, bleeding, and low levels of amniotic fluid, doctors might recommend it.

5. Third trimester ultrasound

Several women don’t need an ultrasound in the third trimester.

But if you have high blood pressure, bleeding, low levels of amniotic fluid, preterm contractions, or 35 years and above, your doctor might perform in-office, low-resolution ultrasounds.

6. Doppler ultrasound 

Unlike a regular ultrasound that uses sound waves to produce images, the doppler ultrasound bounces high-frequency sound waves off circulating red blood cells to measure blood flow and blood pressure.

This specific test will determine if your baby is getting enough blood.

In addition to these, the doctor can also conduct other pregnancy tests that require ultrasounds. These might include chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis that checks for birth defects such as down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, or spina bifida.

Some medical practices now offer 3D (lifelike) and 4D (moving picture) ultrasounds. This also helps doctors detect certain fetal abnormalities and birth defects.


A clinic is always the best place to have an ultrasound performed as you will have access to a physician who has been trained in interpreting the images.

Ultrasounds during pregnancy are a great way to get a glimpse of your developing baby. Plus, a clinic is always the best place to have an ultrasound performed as you will have access to a physician who has been trained in interpreting the images.

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