What are Obstetric Ultrasound Scans?
Obstetric Ultrasound is the use of ultrasound scans in pregnancy. Since its introduction in the late 1950’s ultrasonography has become a very useful diagnostic tool in Obstetrics.
Currently used equipments are known as real-time scanners, with which a continous picture of the moving fetus can be depicted on a monitor screen. Very high frequency sound waves of between 3.5 to 7.0 megahertz (i.e. 3.5 to 7 million cycles per second) are generally used for this purpose.
They are emitted from a transducer which is placed in contact with the maternal abdomen, and is moved to "look at" (likened to a light shined from a torch) any particular content of the uterus. Repetitive arrays of ultrasound beams scan the fetus in thin slices and are reflected back onto the same transducer.
The information obtained from different reflections are recomposed back into a picture on the monitor screen (a sonogram, or ultrasonogram). Movements such as fetal heart beat and malformations in the feus can be assessed and measurements can be made accurately on the images displayed on the screen. Such measurements form the cornerstone in the assessment of gestational age, size and growth in the fetus.
A full bladder is often required for the procedure when abdominal scanning is done in early pregnency. There may be some discomfort from pressure on the full bladder. The conducting gel is non-staining but may feel slightly cold and wet. There is no sensation at all from the ultrasound waves.
Why and when is Ultrasound used in Pregnancy?
Ultrasound scan is currently considered to be a safe, non-invasive, accurate and cost-effective investigation in the fetus. It has progressively become an indispensible obstetric tool and plays an important role in the care of every pregnant woman.
The main use of ultrasonography are in the following areas: