Baby Care, Baby Health, Giving Birth, Ultrasound

The Well Baby Ultrasound: Basic Procedures and What to Expect

David collageIt is quite common for a doctor to request an ultrasound around 18-23 weeks of pregnancy. This test is optional, so it’s important for mothers to be to understand the purpose of this testing, its limits and any potential risks that may be involved in the procedure. This will allow you to make an informed decision regarding whether or not this ultrasound is an appropriate tool for your pregnancy.

Basic Ultrasound Procedures

An ultrasound is a sonogram test that uses ultrasound waves to capture a picture of your baby. This is used to determine the health of the fetus and your pregnancy. The entire procedure takes approximately 20-45 minutes.

Before the examination begins you will need to drink 1-2 glasses of water so that the bladder is full enough to push the uterus close to the surface of the abdomen. This will allow for a clearer picture of your baby. You will then enter a dimly lit room and lie on a bed underneath the ultrasound machine. A trained ultrasound technician will then spread gel on the abdomen and then gently roll a transducer along the abdomen, sending sound waves into the uterus and harnessing the echoes to create a picture. The images captured through the ultrasound will be displayed on a screen for you to see.

Every office has its own procedures regarding sharing ultrasound results. Your technician should inform you when your results will be shared at the end of your examination.

What the Ultrasound Should Show

At 18-23 weeks a great deal of development has already taken place. This ultrasound is primarily used to check for abnormalities or conditions that could put the pregnancy at risk. If these conditions are present it gives you and your doctor time to determine the best course of action to manage these complications.


  • Evaluating the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby
  • Evaluate the baby’s movement and heart rate
  • Check that the baby is growing and alive
  • Determine if one or more babies is present in the uterus
  • Give a more accurate due date for the pregnancy based on the size of the baby
  • Check for any severe birth defects
  • Determine the risk of chromosome conditions such as Down syndrome


Potential Risks

Generally it is recommended that every woman have an ultrasound at this checkpoint in their pregnancy. Ultrasounds do not use radiation and there is no evidence that ultrasound waves cause harmful effects to humans.

Many women opt to use an ultrasound to ensure peace of mind, particularly since this examination is used to rule out the presence of severe complications. If a problem is found, women can work with their doctor or a genetic counselor to determine if alterations to their birthing plan are necessary. However, in some cases ultrasounds can provide false evidence that a defect is present which can cause undue stress on the parents.

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Author: Najeeb M Layyous