Most expectant mothers find themselves counting down the days until their first ultrasound appointment. It’s not until then that they finally get to learn a little bit more about the tiny person growing inside. During a mother’s first pregnancy especially, she may not know much about what she’s getting herself into and what to expect at her first appointment. Expectant mothers should not be afraid to ask their doctors anything they may be wondering about, including these five important questions.
1. What is an ultrasound?
An ultrasound, also known as a sonogram, creates an image of the baby by sending harmless, high-frequency sound waves into the uterus and measuring how long they take to return after “bouncing” off the baby. Expectant mothers will also want to learn what type of ultrasound machine the doctor uses and where it will be placed to get the best view of the baby. For example, vaginal ultrasounds are often used instead of abdominal ultrasounds early in pregnancy because they give a better view of the baby.
2. Is having an ultrasound safe?
Medical equipment can be confusing, especially for people who have never used it before, so it’s important to express any safety concerns and get more information about precautions. Although ultrasound machines are generally quite safe, patients may want to learn whether this particular machine has malfunctioned or required repairs recently (repairs do happen). The doctor may mention that it has recently been repaired or that the machine is 10 years old in which case it’s important to learn more details about whether there are potential risks of using the machine.
3. What should I expect on the day of the ultrasound?
Setting proper expectations is an important part of having the appointment go smoothly. The doctor should describe, step by step, what to expect to happen on the day of the ultrasound. Patients also want to learn whether they need to do anything to prepare; e.g., drinking water before arriving or avoiding eating or drinking prior to the appointment. It’s also helpful to ask how long the appointment will last which can help plan the rest of the day and know how long to expect to be there.
4. What will happen if the ultrasound shows problems?
Although many expectant mothers are excited to see the baby for the first time, this isn’t the only reason doctors use ultrasound machines. In fact, the primary reason is to check to make sure the baby is developing properly. Before the appointment, ask what sorts of issues the doctor may be watching for in the ultrasound and what will happen if anything is wrong. Preparing for this possibility can help set correct expectations.
5. When will I be able to see the baby?
Some doctors use a machine called a Doppler, which also utilizes ultrasound waves, to listen to the heartbeat at the first appointment. This machine does not produce images. However, some doctors have ultrasound machines that record video and can patients with a souvenir, or print out a good image of the baby from the ultrasound. Some offices even have 3-D or 4-D ultrasounds that show detailed images of the baby. It’s helpful to know what to expect, and also to know whether the doctor will be able to identify whether the baby is a boy or a girl!
Ultrasounds have come a long way since the fuzzy images seen in movies from several decades ago, but the basic idea is still the same. Regardless, it’s helpful to get every question answered before the day of the procedure to ensure that it goes smoothly and meets expectations. Many expectant mothers only have one ultrasound during the pregnancy, which means that it’s important to make the most of it.
Holly is an Indianapolis native who enjoys blogging on behalf of brands like Sears. In her spare time, she loves running and baking every cookie recipe she can get her hands on