Ultrasounds in Pregnancy
The detection of birth defects by means of ultrasounds warrants some further explanation. Ultrasounds can effectively be used to confirm whether the baby is suffering from any chromosomal or genetic abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome. Of course, physical deformities in the development of limbs or other parts of the body can usually be seen with an ultrasound. A good radiographer might observe certain creases and folds on the neck of the unborn baby. These folds and creases, known as fetal nuchal translucency, might indicate a Down’s baby. If prenatal care specialists suspect your baby might have a genetic condition, then they might suggest some more in-depth diagnostic tests such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. This test will enable an extraction of the baby’s genetic material which can then be sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Of course, even if ultrasounds indicate a defect and further diagnostic tests confirm it, it is up to the couple to decide how to proceed. Besides, it is important to bear in mind that although doctors might recommend diagnostic testing you can opt out from having it done and choose to live your pregnancy as nature intended it. The fetal heart beat can also be heard at about eighteen weeks of pregnancy using a doppler. This instrument measures the blood supply to the baby’s heart and allows for one of the most excitement moments of all prenatal care visits: when the mother gets to hear her baby’s tiny heart beat.
An early ultrasound
Normally, an ultrasound is carried out on all pregnant women at anywhere between eighteen to twenty weeks. In some cases, an ultrasound will be done pretty early in your pregnancy. This preliminary ultrasound is done for a number of reasons. It may be done to confirm whether there are multiple fetuses (perhaps twins or triplets) or to measure the volume of amniotic fluid or the position of the placenta. It can moreover, be useful if you have no idea when you conceived. By measuring the baby, specialists can determine the likely fetal age and thus, estimate the due date. Other more serious reasons might be vaginal bleeding in the first trimester or the beginning of the second. This may indicate a miscarriage and the midwife or prenatal care specialist might want to confirm whether the baby’s heart can be seen beating or not.
Ultrasounds are thus a simple but integral part of prenatal care. Of course, they are only one aspects of the whole experience and of all the prenatal visits you will attend. They are however, the tests that will allow you to get pretty close to your baby by seeing him or her and by hearing her heart beat.