Treatments and tests

Ultrasound during pregnancy

What is an ultrasound?

An ultrasound during pregnancy is when a picture is taken of your baby in your uterus (womb) by using very high frequency soundwaves. It can be done at any stage of pregnancy and is safe for you and your baby.

An ultrasound is taken using a special machine that has a hand-held scanner which is connected to a computer. Soundwaves are bounced off your baby’s body to create the picture.

How an ultrasound is performed  

An ultrasound can be done at any stage in your pregnancy. A gel is applied to your abdomen (stomach) to allow sound waves to pass from the ultrasound probe into the uterus. The ultrasound probe is moved over your abdomen and an ultrasound image is produced by the reflection of the sound waves off the baby. Your bladder should be comfortably full to get a clear image.

Sometimes, in the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy, a vaginal ultrasound is performed rather than an abdominal ultrasound. The person performing the ultrasound will advise which procedure is appropriate for you.

Why have an ultrasound?

An ultrasound is an important part of first trimester screening tests. It is also recommended as a screening tool during your second trimester (second 3 months of pregnancy), ideally at 18 to 20 weeks.

You may be offered an ultrasound at 6 to 8 weeks of your pregnancy to:

  • confirm your baby’s gestational age (his or her age in days and weeks)
  • show if you are having a multiple pregnancy, for example twins
  • check your baby’s growth.

An ultrasound may also be done if there are unusual symptoms, such as bleeding.

What are the risks?

An ultrasound is safe for you and your baby.

Where to get help

Office of Population Health Genomics

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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