What to Expect: Early Pregnancy Limited Ultrasound (Up to 13 Weeks) //
If this is your first experience with pregnancy, one thing that is helpful to know is what to expect for ultrasound. It’s such a common occurrence now with modern medical technology, but ultrasounds are not just for fun to see what the baby looks like, they have medical purpose. Visiting an early pregnancy clinic is a good first step when you think you might be pregnant. If you need medical confirmation of the pregnancy for insurance purposes or to discuss options and information important tot your decision making process. If you are choosing to parent it will help you get your pregnancy off to a healthy start long before you OB will schedule an appointment to see you. For those considering abortion, an early ultrasound may detect signs of a miscarriage such as an empty gestational sac. In which case an abortion procedure would not be necessary since the pregnancy would end on it’s own anyway.
Early ultrasounds are called “limited” because they are used only top determine the viability of the fetus. Even if you have a positive home pregnancy test the clinic will always do an in house urine test to verify a positive pregnancy in order to have medical reason for an ultrasound procedure. At the clinic the ultrasound technician (sonographer) is looking for three things:
- The placement of the pregnancy (in uterus) to rule out ectopic pregnancy
- Measure the gestational sac or the crown rump length (CRL) either of which will determine how far along the pregnancy is
- Check for fetal heart rate
Between 5-6 weeks from your last menstrual period (LMP) is about the earliest an ultrasound can detect these things since the embryo is microscopic in the early stages.
There are two parts to an early ultrasound:
- Abdominal Ultrasound: This is always the first step for ultrasound. A warm gel is put on your lower abdomen area and an ultrasound probe is used to send sound waves to create an image on the screen. It is important to drink a lot and have a full bladder to provide better images. The technician may need to press gently on the probe but it should not be painful. It is very early in the pregnancy and an abdominal ultrasound is unable to confirm the pregnancy then a transvaginal ultrasound is needed in order to get a closer view.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound: This is highly recommended if the abdominal ultrasound is inconclusive. Be sure to inform the nurse sonographer if you are allergic to latex. A lubricant is placed on the ultrasound probe to help reduce discomfort. It is about the same size as a tampon and is inserted into the vagina about the same length as a tampon would be. It can be uncomfortable, however, it is not a painful procedure. If you are experiencing any pain or difficulty be sure to tell the sonographer right away. Becuase this ultrasound provides a much closer view of the gestational sac, the pregnancy has a better chance of being confirmed in the early weeks.