Finding out you’re pregnant can be a joyous occasion, but after the celebrations, one thing becomes more important than anything else; making sure that the baby is healthy throughout the pregnancy.
In addition to avoiding drinking, smoking, and particularly dangerous activities, it is reasonable to wonder whether ultrasounds use any kind of radiation imaging.
The purpose of this blog is to provide you with basic ultrasound information so that you can go into your OB-GYN’s office with peace of mind.
What is Ultrasound Imaging?
Ultrasound imaging uses high-frequency sound waves to view what’s going on inside the human body, in real time. Also known as sonography, it is painless and can capture things such as movement of organs, blood flow, or a fetus. It is often used for diagnosis purposes.
To capture the images, the doctor places a water-based ultrasound gel directly on the skin, and using a probe, transmits soundwaves. When sounds bounce back, they are reflected on a computer image that allows the medical provider and the patient to see what’s inside. The images also accurately reflect the object’s shape and size.
This is how pregnant women are able to see their baby during gestation.
Do Ultrasounds use Radiation?
Radiation is used for medical imaging in scans like x-rays. This kind of radiation works by emitting ionized microwaves. Ionization removes electrons from atoms, and with extended exposure, will damage cells. This is why, when a woman gets x-rays, her abdominal area is covered by a protective vest.
That being said, there are conflicting studies about whether getting an x-ray during pregnancy would result in damage to the fetus. As a general rule, it should only be done if the health benefits outweigh the risks.
If a woman does get x-rays prior to finding out she’s pregnant, she shouldn’t be overly alarmed, however. The operative phrase in the damage caused by ionization is extended exposure.
Ultrasound vs. Radiation
Ultrasound is often preferred for the imaging of soft tissue, while radiation is the method used for the imaging of denser parts, such as teeth and bones.
What makes ultrasound imaging ideal for pregnancy is that it isn’t ionized. This means that no, it does not use radiation. And since it poses no risk of damage, it is a safe way to monitor a baby’s development.
The benefits of using ultrasound imaging during pregnancy are that it can be used to:
– Confirm a pregnancy
– Confirm multiple pregnancies
– Estimate how far along the pregnancy is
– Monitor the baby’s development
– Monitor the health and development of the baby’s organs
– Monitor the health of the mother’s reproductive organs
– Monitor the fetus’ heart
– Listen to the baby’s heartbeat
– Determine the sex of the baby
– Determine whether the fetus has any health issues
– Estimate the delivery date
– Determine whether to recommend a natural birth or a cesarean
Additional Factors to Keep in Mind
Sound waves travel better through liquid. As your pregnancy progresses, the amniotic fluid will help obtain the best imaging possible. However, during the first trimester, your doctor may require women to drink a specific amount of fluids prior to the appointment.
Your OB-GYN may also schedule additional ultrasounds if you are over 35 or have developed gestational diabetes.
Contact us at OB-GYN Women’s Center
Pregnancy is a milestone in any woman’s life. You should have proper care from the time you miss that first period, through your delivery of your baby.
At OB-GYN Women’s Center, we’ll provide you with the best prenatal care during all stages of pregnancy, taking into account your individual medical needs.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. We look forward to meeting you and your baby.