Women's Health Texas – Austin

Prenatal Ultrasound

Your baby’s prenatal ultrasound

Many people think of a prenatal ultrasound as their baby’s first picture; and, of course, it is. The sonogram picture is shared with family and friends, and is often put into baby books. But to your Austin OBGYN, this first ultrasound is a critical part of making sure that you have a healthy, happy baby.

Prenatal ultrasound gives us important information about your baby

During a routine pregnancy at Women’s Health Texas, your doctor typically will order several prenatal ultrasound exams.

Generally, a sonogram is done early in pregnancy to confirm your due date, and make sure that we don’t see any problems. Often, ultrasounds are ordered if there is bleeding or unusual pain early in pregnancy.

Fortunately, most patients who have bleeding early in pregnancy go on to have a normal pregnancy, and an early ultrasound can confirm the fetal heartbeat and provide reassurance about the continuation of pregnancy.

If you want screening or testing for chromosome problems, a sonogram is usually coupled with blood tests at about 10-13 weeks.

At about 20 weeks of pregnancy, a complete “anatomy survey” of the fetus is done to look at all the major organs of the fetus; measure to confirm growth; and check the uterus, placenta and cervix. At this visit, we usually provide a DVD with a few minutes of video, and a sonogram picture or two, so you can show other family members or friends your exciting new family addition.

Later in pregnancy, your doctor may order ultrasound exams if there is any suspicion of problems. These might include concern over the size of the baby, or maternal problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or other conditions that might impact fetal well-being.

Often, a sonogram is done approximately one month prior to the due date, to check the baby’s size and position.

What about 3D or 4D ultrasound?

3D ultrasound uses the two-dimensional capability of the machine to produce a three-dimensional “surface” picture of the baby. 4D is simply “live” 3D, like a 3D movie.

In spite of the publicity around 3D ultrasound and the “cute” baby pictures that can sometimes be obtained, 3D is actually very rarely helpful to trained medical sonographers. 3D only gives a surface picture of the baby, and in normal use, can’t provide a look at internal structure. Additionally, the ability of 3D to show fine details is much worse than 2D.

We frequently try to get a few 3D pictures of the baby, because they are indeed fun and Grandma always thinks that baby looks like her. However, there must be a clear window of fluid in front of the baby’s face to get the cute pictures that are often shown in the magazines.

If the baby’s face is turned away from the screen, or up against the side of the uterus, or hands are over the face, we will be unable to see a clear picture. 3D can’t “go through” other tissue like 2D can. So while 3D or 4D is fun, it rarely is actually useful to us or your doctor. But it is cute when we can get a good picture.

It’s important to have your prenatal ultrasound performed by a medically trained professional

In recent years, some storefront businesses have begun offering 3D and 4D prenatal ultrasound. These businesses are not part of an obstetrics practice, and the people performing the test may not be medically trained professionals who can appropriately read the results.

To learn more about the medical uses for prenatal ultrasound or inquire about our prenatal care, contact us. We want to help you have a beautiful pregnancy and delivery, start to finish.