A fetal ultrasound, also called a fetal sonogram, is a test that uses sound waves to see images of an unborn baby in the mother's womb. The ultrasound can also act as a camera and take pictures of the fetus. Ultrasounds are used throughout a pregnancy to monitor fetal development and health. Most women have ultrasounds performed during their pregnancy.
Many doctors rely on ultrasounds to see progress on the unborn baby's development. A fetal ultrasound can be used to confirm a pregnancy, get the size of the baby, and monitor the baby's organs. The doctor can tell if the fetus is growing at an average rate by looking at the sonogram screen. The ultrasound also allows the doctor to check the baby's heart, lungs, and other organs to be sure they are developing normally.
If the doctor sees an abnormality on the fetal sonogram, they can begin to diagnose a medical condition before the baby is born. The fetal ultrasound can make it possible to figure out if there are any genetic disorders or if there is an organ that is not forming properly. This early information can allow the fetus to start medical treatment in the womb, or the doctor can establish a treatment plan before the baby is born.
Some people want to find out the sex of the baby before it arrives. A fetal ultrasound can often determine if the fetus is male or female around 20 weeks gestation. Most ultrasound technicians will not guarantee the accuracy of determining the baby's sex. If the baby is turned the wrong way or hiding in the womb, the ultrasound may not pick up on the baby's gender. Either way, most ultrasound technicians will print out pictures of the unborn baby to give to the mother.
An ultrasound machine does not use radiation and is not an invasive method to monitor a fetus during pregnancy. Ultrasounds do not have the risks that x-ray machines carry. The procedure usually only takes a few minutes and is not painful for the mother. Most mothers enjoy a fetal sonogram, as they get to see their baby in real time.
A fetal ultrasound is routine for prenatal care. Most health insurance companies will pay for ultrasounds during a woman's pregnancy. The cost of a fetal ultrasound without medical insurance can vary. Unless there are pregnancy or medical complications, most women will only have to have one to two ultrasounds during their pregnancy.