How To Interpret a Pregnancy Ultrasound

In a typical pregnancy ultrasound, sound waves are used to project a picture of the fetus onto a monitor. Ultrasounds are used for a variety of reasons. They are often used to determine evidence of an early pregnancy, and they may be used to rule out any problems that vaginal bleeding or other symptoms may indicate. Ultrasounds are commonly used to determine the gestational age of the baby. Multiple pregnancies can also be found on an ultrasound. Although a full bladder may be necessary to get the best viewing of the fetus, there is no other discomfort to the pregnant woman or baby during this procedure. One of the most common pregnancy ultrasound methods is the Doppler ultrasound.  Most doctors typically interpret a pregnancy ultrasound using the following methods:

  1. Measurement of baby's crown to rump This is usually performed in the second or third month of fetal development to estimate the baby's age. 
  2. Biparietal diameter of baby Gestational age is sometimes estimated using this method of measuring the diameter between the two sides of baby's head somewhere around the 13th week of development. 
  3. Femur measurements This is another way to measure gestational age. Measuring the longest bone in the body can give an estimate, and this is typically done around the 14th week of development. 
  4. Abdominal measurement Measuring the circumference of a baby's abdomen is one way of determining fetal size and weight in the later months of pregnancy. 
  5. Chromosomal abnormalities Pregnancy ultrasounds are also used to diagnose fetal problems, such as hydrocephalus, spina bifida, anencephaly, congenital heart defects, cleft palates and/or lips, and Down Syndrome. 
  6. Diagnostic procedures Pregnancy ultrasounds can be used to assist with diagnostic procedures, such as amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, and fetal therapy. 
  7. Placenta problems Pregnancy ultrasounds can also be used to interpret the location and condition of the placenta. Conditions such as these include placenta previa, which occurs when the placenta is near the cervix and can cause vaginal bleeding, fetal hydrops, and intrauterine growth retardation. 
  8. Multiple pregnancies When multiple pregnancies are discovered, a pregnancy ultrasound can be used to determine the size and placement of the babies, as well as any evidence of growth retardation and twin-to-twin transfusions. 
  9. Uterus and Pelvic Problems  Pregnancy ultrasounds are also used in diagnosing problems with the uterus and/or pelvic area.
  10. Baby's Movements and Position Many doctors also use pregnancy ultrasounds to evaluate a baby's movements and position within the womb.


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