Pregnancy Ultrasound: Types, Procedure, And Preparation

Pregnancy Ultrasound: Types, Procedure, And Preparation

19 Oct 2022 | 8 min Read

Sudeshna Chakravarti

Author | 791 Articles

A pregnancy ultrasound is an integral part of routine prenatal care for most pregnant women. It enables healthcare providers to monitor the baby’s growth and development and detect any anomalies or birth defects in the foetus. It also allows parents to see their baby up and close from the initial stages till birth. 

Most pregnant women have a routine number of ultrasounds during their journey, but women with high-risk pregnancies might need frequent scans to determine their baby’s health throughout the gestational period. We give you a deeper insight into what pregnancy ultrasounds are, a guide to your week-by-week pregnancy ultrasounds, and tips to prepare for this routine check-up. 

What Is An Ultrasound?

What Is An Ultrasound?
A pregnancy ultrasound helps determine your baby’s development, growth, and movement inside the womb / Image credit: Pexels

An ultrasound is a medical procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to look at the tissues and organs inside your body. During a pregnancy ultrasound sound waves emitted from the transducer reflect after touching your baby’s body and create an image on the ultrasound screen, showing your little one’s body parts and growth. 

Besides determining your baby’s development, an ultrasound also helps predict your due date, shows the position of your placenta, and measures amniotic fluid. 

This medical scan does not have any adverse effect on your growing baby, but keep in mind, that this scan should always be done under the supervision of a trained physician or a doctor. 

When Is An Ultrasound Done During Pregnancy?

A pregnancy ultrasound is conducted in every trimester, but its frequency wholly depends on your condition. If you have a healthy pregnancy, then you might not have ultrasound scans every week. However, an ultrasound scan in the 20th week of pregnancy is considered compulsory for all expecting mums, irrespective of their condition.

In the next section, we give you a breakdown of all the pregnancy ultrasound scans that you can expect during your gestational period.

First Trimester Ultrasounds

Not every expecting mum will receive a first-trimester ultrasound during pregnancy. However, your doctor might recommend it to rule out the possibility of any complications and health risks.

Early Pregnancy (6-8 weeks)

Your first ultrasound, also known as a sonogram or fetal ultrasound is usually conducted as early as 6-8 weeks into your pregnancy. This early pregnancy ultrasound scan is performed to establish an estimated due date, determine the number of fetuses you are carrying, and check your baby’s heartbeat. 

While this ultrasound scan is not necessary, your doctor might recommend it if you have high-risk pregnancy conditions like abdominal pain or bleeding, and to rule out conditions like ectopic pregnancy, congenital disorders, and miscarriage. 

During this time, your baby is almost the size of a tennis ball, and that’s why the ultrasound is performed transvaginally, which gives the clearest picture of your uterus at this early stage. For the transvaginal ultrasound scan, your doctor will place a thin wand-like transducer probe into your vagina, which further sends sound waves that reflect off your fetus and send signals to the machine, which converts these reflections into a black-and-white image of your uterus. 

Nuchal Translucency Ultrasound (10-13 weeks)

The nuchal translucency ultrasound scan (NT ultrasound) is performed between 10-13 weeks. It is conducted to measure the back of the fetus’ neck and determine if there are any abnormal measurements. Anomalous measurements can indicate Down syndrome or other congenital disabilities of the heart, skeleton, and abdomen. Additionally, the NT ultrasound measures your baby’s hormones and proteins with a blood test to detect any abnormalities.

While this test is optional, sometimes your doctor recommends it to alleviate concerns about your baby’s health and development. 

Second Trimester Ultrasound

Second Trimester Ultrasound
An anatomy scan gives you a detailed overview of your baby’s body and organs / Image credit: Freepik

The second-trimester ultrasound scan is mandatory for all pregnant women. It includes an anatomy scan, which provides a thorough overview of your baby’s developing body and organs. We provide more insight into this test in the next section.

Anatomy Scan (18-22 weeks)

This scan is usually conducted between 18-22 weeks and looks in detail into your baby’s heart, bones, brain, spinal cord, kidneys, abdomen, and face. The anatomy scan also checks for 11 rare conditions that might be present in your baby—cleft lip syndrome, anencephaly, Edward’s syndrome, diaphragmatic hernia, gastroschisis, cardiac abnormalities, open spina bifida, and Patau’s syndrome. 

In addition to checking for abnormalities, the anatomy scan is also used to measure the placental position, amniotic fluid level, and also count your baby’s fingers and toes.

Third Trimester Ultrasound

Many expecting mums don’t require an ultrasound in their third trimesters. However, the doctor might recommend one in case of a high-risk pregnancy to monitor your baby’s well-being.

A third-trimester pregnancy ultrasound scan is usually conducted if you have conditions like high blood pressure, a low level of amniotic fluid, bleeding, and preterm contractions. 

There’s nothing to worry about, these ultrasounds will only hello reassure you of your baby’s health, and also enable early administration of treatment and medications in case any abnormalities or risks are detected. 

Special Situation Ultrasounds

Apart from the above-mentioned ultrasound scans, your doctor might recommend certain additional scans under special circumstances. Here are more details about these special scans.

Doppler Ultrasound

A doppler ultrasound is a special imaging scan, which shows blood moving through your vessels. During pregnancy, this scan is used to determine if your baby’s blood is circulating properly. Additionally, a doppler ultrasound in a high-risk pregnancy can reduce the possibility of perinatal death or obstetric interventions.

Your doctor might also recommend a fetal doppler ultrasound under the following scenarios:

  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have diabetes
  • Your placenta is not developing properly
  • If you have a heart or kidney disease
  • If there is a suspected problem in your baby’s growth

Guiding Ultrasounds

Your doctor might also order other pregnancy scans that require ultrasounds for guidance. These might include amniocentesis or chronic villus sampling (CVS), which screens your baby to determine the risk of congenital disorders. Another test that uses ultrasound as guidance is a fetal echocardiogram, which checks your baby’s heartbeat and detects anomalies.

How Many Ultrasounds Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy ultrasounds are considered safe for you and your baby when conducted under the supervision of a medical practitioner. Moroever, it doesn’t involve radiation, so you don’t have to worry about any adverse effects on your baby.

While ultrasounds don’t pose any risk, it is advisable to only perform those which your doctor recommends. 

How To Prepare For An Ultrasound During Pregnancy?

How To Prepare For An Ultrasound During Pregnancy?
The doctor might advise you to have a full bladder during the examination / Image credit: Pexels 

It is suggested to have a full bladder for an ultrasound. Although you must also follow any specific instructions that you’ve received from your doctor or sonographer. You may have to empty your bladder 90 minutes before the examination and then consume about 237ml of water or any fluid of your choice one hour before the process. 

Having a full bladder during an ultrasound helps get a clear view of your baby, their movements, and its characteristics. If you have any questions regarding the preparation for an ultrasound, do ensure to ask your doctor beforehand.

How Much Does An Ultrasound Cost?

Ultrasounds can cost anywhere between Rs. 500-3000 in India. In most cases, you can get your health insurance plan to cover the cost of prenatal ultrasounds. Again if you have any concerns regarding this, make sure to consult your doctor as well as the insurance company for clarity.


A Pregnancy ultrasound is an essential diagnostic scan to track your health and foetal development. These scans are safe and you are advised to go through them as per your routine schedule to ensure your baby’s proper growth and development. Besides, it can also help you give an estimated due date, which makes it easier to plan your delivery and birth plan.


When should I get an ultrasound during pregnancy?

You should get at least two ultrasounds during your gestational period. However, if your doctor suspects any abnormalities in your baby’s development, they might recommend more than two.

Will too many ultrasounds harm my baby?

No, ultrasounds are considered safe for the mum and baby as long as they are conducted under the supervision of a trained physician or doctor.

Is it safe to get an ultrasound during the first month of pregnancy?

Yes, you can have an ultrasound during the first month of pregnancy. 

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