Pregnancy is an important phase of motherhood. The health of the developing fetus is continuously monitored during pregnancy. The Prenatal Ultrasound scan offers a non-invasive, accurate diagnostic tool for dating a pregnancy, checking for any problems, and obtaining information about the fetus. It helps assess for genetic risks and monitor organdevelopment in the fetus.
Prenatal or Fetal Ultrasound is a scanning technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to obtain images of the fetus, placenta, and amniotic sac in a pregnant woman.
Note:Prenatal Ultrasound scan does not involve radiation and is completely safe for both mother and baby.
The prenatal scan is usually advised by a Gynecologist. These scans are performed at prescribed schedules depending on the individual pregnancy.
A typical pregnancy scan schedule usually recommended is as follows:
1. First Trimester
The scan done in this period, commonly known as the ‘Dating scan’, is performed to establish the gestational age of the pregnancy. This scan helps assess the baby’s heartbeat, possibilities of twins or multiple fetuses, and also any other abnormality in the uterus.
2. 11-14 weeks
The scan done in this period helps identify genetic syndromes and fetal abnormalities like Trisomy 18 and Down syndrome.
3. 18-22 weeks
The scan is done in this period to assess the size of the developing fetus and identify birth defects. This scan also helps understand the position of the fetus, the umbilical cord and also the placenta. This scan is vital in diagnosing cervical issues in the pregnant women which may lead to preterm labor or premature delivery.
4. Third trimester
The ultrasound scans recommended in this period are mainly for pregnancies that involve multiple fetuses, women with hypertension, diabetes or other medical conditions, and also to monitor growth disorders as required.
The Prenatal Ultrasound scan procedure
A water based gel(that helps the sound waves travel easily) is applied over the abdomen and pelvic area of the pregnant woman. A small wand, called the transducer, is placed and moved over the belly to generate images (of the fetus, umbilical cord, placenta and uterus) on the screen using sound waves. These images help in the monitoring and diagnosis at various milestones of pregnancy.
Prenatal Ultrasound scanscan detect afew types of physical birth defects like
• Spina bifida(A birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its covering membrane)
• Heart defects(Patent Ductus Arteriosus- a birth defect of heart leading to abnormal blood flow between the aorta and the pulmonary artery.
• Kidney problems(Medullary sponge kidney (MSK) is a birth defect in which cysts form in the inner part of the kidneycausing the improper flow ofurine).
• Absence in part/whole of a limb/s
• Cleft palate and cleft lip (Opening or split in the roof of the mouth and lip).
• Congenital dislocated hip.
A Prenatal Ultrasound scan is therefore a very vital tool in analyzing the overall health and physical fitness of the developing fetus and pregnant woman.