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What's Involved at an Ultrasound Appointment?

Sonographers have the exciting job of examining your baby throughout the gestational period. Find out what all is being looked at, what's exciting, and why they want you to arrive with a full bladder!

Written By: Rachel Neilsen


Evergreen Women’s Health

During my time as the ultrasound sonographer for Evergreen Women’s Health, I have found that I get a number of questions regarding the "Anatomy” scan.

At your 20 week anatomy US, I will look at the anatomy to make sure everything appears structurally normal, (i.e. the heart, brain, spine, and soft tissue organs). I will also measure the baby to get an estimate of the current weight. Babies typically weigh 10-13 oz at this time! Then, the fun part! I will try and get pictures of the baby’s face and feet. Sometimes you will get a short video of baby swallowing the amniotic fluid, (the baby is making its own amniotic fluid. Babies do this regularly and have since week 13.) This is another way that we know the urinary tract system is functioning. If you would like to know the gender, you will find out at this time as well.

3D images are also something I like to provide for a patient as well. Unfortunately, depending on baby’s positioning or late gestational age it is not always possible, but if it is, you will receive those as well. You will receive printed pictures as a link on your phone to view images digitally.

To answer the question of “why do I need to drink water?” Having some urine in your bladder is helpful for multiple different exams. For a pelvic US a full bladder is used abdominally only, to push bowel and gas out of the way (something we all have in our pelvis at all times) so that I can see your uterus and ovaries better abdominally. We call a full bladder “our window”.

For OB’s, in early pregnancy a full bladder (not too full) is helpful for the same reason. The full bladder acts as a window so that I can see the fetus at an early, tiny stage. At 6 weeks, fetal size is around 0.5 cm. At 8 weeks, babies are typically 2.2 cm. That’s not even an inch yet! Babies typically grow 1 mm per day in early pregnancy. That’s also a reason we like to scan you around 8 weeks so we can visualize the baby and the heart beat!

At your anatomy US around 20 weeks, a full bladder allows me to visualize and measure your cervix and look at your ovaries. After I look and measure your cervix I will let you use the restroom if you need to. A full bladder throughout the US is not always better at this scan. Sometimes a full bladder can push the baby out of the way!

At your first OB US, which is typically 8 weeks, we want to see a gestational sac, a YS (where the fetus gets its nutrition from until the placenta takes over), and a fetus with a heartbeat.

Interesting scans that I have seen would be a set of triplets and another time was quadruplets!!! Those can be a challenge. My favorite scans are when we can see the baby sticking out its tongue, swallowing fluid or sometimes giving us a thumbs up!

This job can be very challenging at times, and so rewarding as well. I love to hear a patient’s excitement as they get to see their baby for the first time and then the wonder as they see how much bigger baby is later in the pregnancy. It’s fun to be able to obtain good 3D images. Scanning a patient is a big responsibility and I feel blessed that I get the privilege to do this!


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