A doctor specializing in prenatal care usually prescribes an ultrasound scan for the pregnant mother. Many pregnant women are worried about the risks of ultrasound in pregnancy. But is ultrasound dangerous for the mother and fetus? In this article, we want to discuss whether ultrasound is harmful in pregnancy or not.
Why is Pregnancy Ultrasound Necessary?
The specialist doctor prescribes various types of ultrasound during pregnancy to the expectant mother on several occasions. Doctors perform these ultrasounds during pregnancy with the following goals:
- Determining the gender of the fetus
- Information about the health and position of the fetus
- The condition of the placenta and fetus
- Twin or multiple pregnancy diagnosis of the type of pregnancy (intrauterine pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy)
Doctors perform 2D ultrasounds often from the mother. This ultrasound is safe. Up to now, no side effects have been reported for this ultrasound on the fetus.
Mainly if your sonographer follows the device's protocols, no problem will arise for the fetus and the mother. However, it would be best if one did the ultrasound in pregnancy because the benefit of doing it outweighs its harm.
What are the Benefits of Ultrasound for Pregnancy?
Specialists recommend that women have an early pregnancy ultrasound of the uterus and ovaries before trying to get pregnant. This ultrasound is to find out about the condition of their reproductive system. This ultrasound helps the doctor know about the uterus's health (in terms of abnormalities), the presence of fibroids or polyps, ovarian cysts, and many other uterine problems.
It is also possible to determine the time of ovulation with this work, especially in women who have irregular menstrual periods or are infertile. The number of follicles, size, and ovulation time is checked on days 12 to 16 of the menstrual cycle.
What are Common Concerns about Ultrasound Pregnancy?
Is too much ultrasound dangerous for the fetus? This question is one of the most frequent questions of pregnant women and their families. The attending physician or sonographer frequently asks it during a fetal ultrasound.
Ultrasound is an essential method for controlling the fetus's health. Usually, pregnant women have an ultrasound every month. For this reason, one of the topics that worry mothers is whether doing a lot of ultrasounds is dangerous for the fetus or not.
Ultrasound is one of the most accurate conventional methods to check the health status of the fetus. So, timely and adequate performance of this method usually does not pose any risk to the fetus and the mother.
Ultrasound Risks for the Fetus
The research on necessary pregnancy ultrasounds has found that these ultrasounds do not cause any harm to the fetus. No connection between birth defects and ultrasound has been observed. Therefore, this method is entirely safe and secure.
3D and 4D ultrasounds do not pose any risk to the fetus. On the other hand, they can take pictures of the fetus and yolk sac accurately and in less time from different angles. Also, these ultrasounds can help the doctor in diagnosing specific problems.
Types of Pregnancy Ultrasound
Ultrasound is done in different ways. The types of abdominal ultrasound in pregnancy may include one of the following according to your doctor's recommendation and diagnosis:
Fetal Doppler is performed to detect and measure blood cells and blood flow in the mother and fetus's abdomen and examine the placenta. This type of ultrasound is prescribed in necessary cases.
Transvaginal ultrasound is performed from inside the vagina. In this way, a doctor can examine the fetus's growth from a closer distance and observe the fetal heartbeat.
The gestational sac is also observable in this method. The harm of vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy is only the slight pain caused by inserting the device into the vagina. This ultrasound is done in early pregnancy.
Done in the 11th to 13th weeks of pregnancy, this type of ultrasound is prescribed for genetic screening. Fetal chromosomal disorders can be detected by NT ultrasound.
2D ultrasound is the most common type of ultrasound during pregnancy. If this ultrasound is performed according to standard protocols, there will be no harm to the fetus and the mother.
It is performed to detect abnormalities of neural tube defects and anomalies that may exist in the face of the fetus. Also, the inside of the skull and skeletal system of the fetus can be seen with 3D ultrasound.
This ultrasound is used if the mother is in danger or the fetus has a particular abnormality. This ultrasound is used to see the structure of the fetal heart.
It is done to detect possible abnormalities in the fetal heart.
Among these ultrasounds, 3D and 4D ultrasounds are not very safe due to the more heat they generate. These are prescribed only in necessary cases.
Is Ultrasound for Pregnancy Dangerous?
The use of ultrasound in pregnancy also has side effects. The disadvantages of ultrasound in pregnancy include:
Ultrasound waves heat the fetus. This heat harms the development of the fetus's brain and central nervous system. Also, heat increases the temperature and warmth of the fetus's heart and causes problems for its growth.
The sonographer must do the scan in less time to reduce the heat. The heat emitted in 2D ultrasound is less than in other types.
Ultrasound waves create an amniotic fluid's steady flow (acoustic flow). This flow affects the permeability of cells and harms the growth of the fetus.
Fetal weight loss
Too much ultrasound in pregnancy is harmful. Mothers who do a lot of ultrasounds, give birth to low-birth-weight babies.
High risk of autism
There are differences in this case. Some studies have mentioned the relationship between the number of ultrasounds and autism in the fetus. But other research shows no such relationship between ultrasound and autism. More research is still needed in this field.
We recommend you avoid 3D, and 4D ultrasound as much as possible to avoid ultrasound harm in pregnancy. That's because these types of ultrasounds generate more heat. If you need more ultrasounds during pregnancy, 2D ultrasound is more suitable.
How many Ultrasounds during Pregnancy is Safe?
The first pregnancy ultrasound
The first ultrasound is done in early pregnancy. In this type of ultrasound, the doctor determines whether the pregnancy is intrauterine or ectopic.
The last ultrasound in pregnancy
The last ultrasound in pregnancy is done after the 28th week of pregnancy. It is usually done in the 32nd week of pregnancy. Of course, the doctor may prescribe more ultrasounds for you in the last weeks of pregnancy.
Allowed number of ultrasounds in pregnancy
Too much ultrasound is harmful during pregnancy. Doctors usually prescribe four ultrasounds for expectant mothers. These ultrasounds are performed at the beginning of pregnancy and in the 12th, 22nd, and 32nd weeks. The number of ultrasounds during pregnancy increases if:
- Twin or multiple pregnancies
- Maternal type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure in the mother
- Maternal lupus
- Bleeding or spotting during pregnancy
- Small fetus
However, ultrasound during pregnancy is performed only with a doctor's prescription and as needed. It is also a question of how soon an ultrasound can detect pregnancy. So doing too early a pregnancy ultrasound won't help you. If an ultrasound is prescribed for you, you must perform it to maintain your and the fetus's health.
Reading the Pregnancy Ultrasound Results
The ultrasound interpretation sheet is vital for your obstetrician and gynecologist to interpret the pregnancy ultrasound and read the pregnancy ultrasound results. This sheet is written by the imaging specialist who performs the ultrasound scans.
A pregnancy ultrasound is done for several purposes in pregnancy. The first purpose of ultrasound in early pregnancy is to prove the presence of the fetus in the uterus and pregnancy. Because the Beta-hCG test, also knowns as the home pregnancy tests, cannot prove pregnancy 100%.
The following goals are pregnancy screenings, usually performed at 12 and 16-18 weeks, to rule out fetal anomalies. With the first and second trimester ultrasounds, it is possible to find the presence of congenital abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, previous problems, etc.
At the end of pregnancy, several ultrasounds are requested to determine the final state of the fetus, the possibility of natural delivery, and the type and location of the placenta.
Doctors perform ultrasounds during pregnancy to ensure the health of the mother and fetus. Because waves are used in preparing ultrasound images, there are concerns about the harm of ultrasound in pregnancy. Despite these concerns, you should have your ultrasound.
There are various types of ultrasound during pregnancy, such as 2D, 3D, 4D, Doppler, etc. Each of these ultrasounds has its application and is used to diagnose and evaluate a specific part of the fetus's body. Among ultrasounds, we can say that 2D ultrasound is the least harmful to the fetus.