Obstetric ultrasounds are used to examine the growing fetus inside the mother's uterus and can provide a variety of information about the health of the mother, the progress of the pregnancy and the development of the fetus including:
- Age of the fetus
- Determine location of fetus (intrauterine vs. ectopic)
- Confirm fetal viability
- Assess fetal growth for evidence of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
- Check fetal position, movement and heartbeat
- Placement of the placenta in relation to the cervix
- Amount of amniotic fluid in the uterus
- Determine number of fetuses (multiples pregnancy)
- Check for major physical abnormalities and some birth defects
Ultrasound may also be used for diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy or determining a cause of bleeding or pain during pregnancy.
Obstetric ultrasounds take an image of the fetus by placing a transducer against the abdomen of the pregnant woman and gently moving it around while it emits high-frequency sound waves into the body. The sound wave signals are interpreted by a computer and displayed on a monitor. With these images, the physician can examine the fetus and evaluate the progress of its development.
There are many different types of ultrasound exams. The type of ultrasound you have will depend on what types of images the doctor needs and why the exam is being done.
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