How Many Ultrasounds During Pregnancy is Safe?

Expectant parents commonly have questions about ultrasounds, with one of the most common being, “How many ultrasounds during pregnancy is safe?”

Ultrasounds are important tools we use during pregnancy to monitor the health and development of the baby. But how many ultrasounds during pregnancy are safe?

Today, we’re going to discuss how many ultrasounds are typically needed and how we ensure they’re done safely. Keep reading to learn all about ultrasounds, how many you can get during your pregnancy, and other important information about ultrasounds.

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Understanding Ultrasounds

An ultrasound is a medical tool that uses sound waves to create images of the baby inside the uterus. These images help us, the healthcare providers, ensure that the baby is growing properly and that the pregnancy is progressing well.

Several different types of ultrasounds exist, each serving a specific purpose. However, their primary goal is to provide us with valuable information about the baby’s health.

Ultrasounds allow us to measure the baby’s size, evaluate vital structures, and sometimes determine the baby’s gender. These assessments are crucial in creating an effective care plan for both the mother and the baby.

Standard Ultrasound Schedule

In a typical pregnancy, we usually perform a few key ultrasounds at certain times. These help us track the baby’s development and ensure everything is on track.

First Trimester (6-9 weeks)

The first ultrasound is quite special. It’s when we confirm the pregnancy, check the baby’s heartbeat, and estimate the due date. It’s an exciting first glimpse of the new life growing inside.

During weeks 12 and 13 of the first trimester we also perform a scan to look at nuchal translucency. This is a marker for increased risk of Down Syndrome. At this time, parents will usually find out the gender with this genetic testing.

Second Trimester (18-22 weeks)

This is when we do a detailed anatomy scan. We carefully check the baby’s organs, bones, and other body parts to make sure everything is developing correctly.

Third Trimester (28-32 weeks)

Not every pregnancy requires an ultrasound during the third trimester, but for some, especially if there are certain health conditions or risks, it’s important. This scan helps us ensure the baby is continuing to grow well and prepares us for the birth.

It’s essential to remember that while these are the standard times for ultrasounds, every pregnancy is unique. Some may require more scans, especially if there are specific health concerns or complications.

Factors Influencing the Number of Ultrasounds

While the standard ultrasound schedule works for most pregnancies, some situations might require us to perform more scans. Here are some factors that can influence the number of ultrasounds during a pregnancy:

Medical History

Women with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, might need more frequent ultrasounds. This helps us monitor the baby’s health more closely and manage any potential risks.

Previous Pregnancy Complications

If there were complications in previous pregnancies, like preterm birth or growth issues, we might suggest more ultrasounds. This allows us to be proactive and ensure everything is progressing well this time.

Pregnancy Complications

Sometimes, issues can arise during the current pregnancy, such as concerns about the baby’s growth, the amount of amniotic fluid, or the placenta’s position. In these cases, additional ultrasounds help us keep a close eye on the situation and make informed care decisions.

Multiple Pregnancies

Expecting twins, triplets, or more? We’ll likely schedule more ultrasounds to monitor each baby’s development and address any challenges that are more common in multiple pregnancies.

It’s all about personalized care. The goal is to ensure the health and safety of both the mother and the baby, adjusting the number of ultrasounds to the specific needs of each pregnancy.

Safety Considerations

When it comes to ultrasounds, one of the most common questions from expectant parents is about their safety. It’s essential to understand that ultrasounds have been used for decades and are considered safe for both the mother and the baby when performed by trained professionals.

Ultrasounds are Radiation-free

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there’s currently no evidence that ultrasounds pose any risk to a fetus.

“No links have been found between ultrasound and birth defects, childhood cancer, or developmental problems later in life,” the ACOG highlights. “However, it is possible that effects could be identified in the future. For this reason, it is recommended that ultrasound exams be performed only for medical reasons by qualified healthcare professionals. Casual use of ultrasound during pregnancy should be avoided.”

This is because, unlike some other imaging techniques, ultrasounds do not use radiation. They rely on sound waves, which have not been shown to harm the baby or affect development.

Guidelines and Protocols

As medical professionals, we adhere to strict guidelines and protocols to ensure ultrasounds are performed safely. This includes using the lowest possible ultrasound settings and limiting the duration of each session to what is necessary for medical evaluation.

According to the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, “All scans should begin at a displayed TI of 0.7 because the total duration of an ultrasound examination during pregnancy cannot be known in advance. Higher outputs should be used only if needed to obtain adequate images and in accordance with the as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) principle.”

Professional Judgment

Decisions about the number and frequency of ultrasounds are made based on each individual’s medical needs and circumstances. We always balance the benefits of monitoring the baby’s development and health with the need to avoid unnecessary procedures.

Addressing Concerns

It’s completely normal for parents to have questions or concerns about ultrasounds. We encourage open communication and are here to provide clear, accurate information to ensure you feel informed and comfortable with your care.

Ultrasound Safety FAQ

Is it safe to do many ultrasound frequently during pregnancy?

Some medical research studies have confirmed that ultrasounds are safe for both mothers and unborn babies. The findings reassure us that ultrasounds do not lead to birth defects, nor do they contribute to developmental, intellectual, or cancer-related issues in children. 

How many ultrasounds do you get when high-risk?

The number of ultrasounds you’ll get when high-risk depends on the high-risk problem, but usually, this can range anywhere from 7 to 15 ultrasounds throughout the entire pregnancy. Towards the end of the pregnancy, weekly ultrasounds are done to evaluate for growth and amniotic fluid volume. 

Do you get an ultrasound in the 3rd trimester?

Yes, all pregnancies should get one ultrasound in the third trimester. This is done to check fetal presentation and growth/weight.

Why do I need a 32-week ultrasound?

If you’re high risk, an ultrasound at 32 weeks is done for an estimated weight. This is how we confirm a baby is not growing too big or too small. 

What are the side effects of frequent ultrasounds in pregnancy?

Ultrasound is a safe diagnostic tool and has been used for over 30 years without any known risks. It uses sound waves, which are safer than radiation-based imaging methods like X-rays.

Ultrasounds & The Crucial Role They Play

Ultrasounds play a crucial role in ensuring the health and well-being of both the mother and the baby during pregnancy. While most pregnancies require just a few standard scans, it’s important to understand that each pregnancy is unique. Some may need more ultrasounds based on medical history, complications, or other specific factors.

As healthcare providers, our priority is to provide the best possible care, balancing the benefits of essential monitoring through ultrasounds with the principle of keeping medical interventions to only what is necessary. Remember, the safety of ultrasounds, when performed by trained professionals, is well-established, and as your healthcare team, we’re here to address any questions or concerns you may have.