Ultrasound

Obstetric ultrasound and nuchal translucency screening

Ultrasound is a commonly used tool to monitor fetal development during pregnancy. Ultrasound is the ideal imaging method for fetal monitoring because it uses no radiation, and it gives very detailed information about soft tissue structures. You may have several ultrasounds at different stages of your pregnancy.

Nuchal translucency is available at Community Hospital

During one of your early ultrasounds, when you are 11 to 14 weeks pregnant, you may request a nuchal translucency test (sometimes called "nuchal fold scan"). During this test, the ultrasound images will be used to measure the translucent area at the back of your baby's neck. Babies with abnormalities tend to accumulate more fluid at the back of their neck during the first trimester, causing this clear space to be larger than average.

The nuchal translucency can help your doctor assess your baby's risk of having Down syndrome, other chromosomal abnormalities, as well as major congenital heart problems. While the nuchal translucency cannot offer a definitive diagnosis, it will help you to decide if further testing such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis are needed.

How to prepare

You will not need to do anything special to prepare for your ultrasound. It is recommended that you wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Separate top and bottom pieces are recommended so you can easily expose your mid-section for the exam.

What to expect

You will be lying on your back on an exam table for your ultrasound. The exam table may be partially or fully reclined. A colorless, water-based gel will be applied to your abdomen. The gel is used to create better contact for transfer of sound waves during the ultrasound. The ultrasound technologist will press a handheld wand firmly to your skin and begin to move it back and forth across a small area. The exam should be relatively painless, although there may be some discomfort as firm pressure is applied with the transducer.

If it is determined that a transvaginal ultrasound is needed, your experience will be similar to a gynecological exam. You will be lying on your back with feet in stirrups, and a transducer will be inserted into your vagina. This type of test is most common in early pregnancy.

Images will be generated in real time, and you may be able to see them on a screen while your exam is taking place. You may be sent home with pictures of your baby taken during the exam.

After your ultrasound

When the ultrasound is complete, the technologist will wipe the gel from your skin and if needed, leave the room to allow you to dress. Generally no recovery time is needed.

Risks or side effects

Ultrasound is a very safe form of imaging during pregnancy, and there are no known risks or side effects.