Scans give you a glimpse of what your baby’s up to in there. So, how many ultrasounds are done during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is filled with numbers.
And one of the most interesting numbers of the lot is how many times you get to see your baby while they’re still on the inside.
So, how many ultrasounds do you have during pregnancy?
Well, that depends on a few factors.
Let’s dive in.
In this article: 📝
- How many ultrasounds are done during pregnancy?
- Pregnancy ultrasound schedule
- Do you get an ultrasound in the 3rd trimester?
- Can too many ultrasounds hurt the baby?
- How many ultrasounds during pregnancy is too many?
How many ultrasounds are done during pregnancy?
Unless your healthcare provider needs to monitor your pregnancy more closely, you will likely have either one or two ultrasounds during your pregnancy.
Fetal ultrasounds use soundwaves to produce a picture of the baby growing in your uterus.
They are very helpful medical tools for healthcare providers to monitor the growth and development of your baby.
Bonus? You might get a screen grab of life on the inside — the very first frameable picture of your peanut.
So when do you get your first ultrasound?
While no two timelines are exactly the same, here’s a rough idea of what you might expect.
Pregnancy ultrasound schedule
First trimester ultrasound
It’s sometimes called the dating scan because it’s when your due date will be estimated.
(Know that this date is a very rough estimate. In fact, only about 4% of babies are born on their due date.)
While many mamas-to-be have a scan in their first trimester, it’s also okay to wait.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), this first trimester scan is not considered standard because it’s too early to see your baby’s organs and limbs in detail.
But it doesn’t mean it can’t give you some other key info.
This 12 week ultrasound can:
- Help detect genetic disorders and heart defects by checking to see if there is extra fluid behind your baby’s neck.
- Check for ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants in a place other than the lining of your uterus.
- Check your baby’s heart rate.
- See if there’s more than one baby in there. 👼🏽👼🏽👼🏽
And how do they perform this procedure?
There are two types of ultrasounds — transabdominal and transvaginal.
For a transabdominal ultrasound, your belly will be smothered in gel and a device called a transducer will be run over it.
(Hot tip: if you’re having a transabdominal ultrasound, go to your appointment with a full bladder. This will push your uterus into position for an optimal viewing experience.)
A transvaginal ultrasound may be done if your doctor wants to take a good look at your uterus or ovaries.
It’s done with a wand-like transducer and the good news is, for this one, you can have an empty bladder.
Second trimester ultrasound
It can help determine if there are any risks you need to be concerned about, as well as whether any other anomalies are showing up.
It’s called the Level 2 ultrasound or the anatomy scan, and it provides a lot of detailed information about your baby.
That’s because your baby is now big enough to show off their newly formed body parts.
At the ultrasound, the doctor will look at:
- The size of your baby
- Their brain, heart, and lungs
- Their neck, spine, and ribs
- Their arms and legs, fingers and toes
- The position of the placenta
- The levels of amniotic fluid
- Fetal positions and movements
- Your cervix
- And the sex of your baby (if you’re keen to know)
If your doctor has any concerns, they may want to do more than one ultrasound in the second trimester.
There are 2D, 3D, and 4D ultrasound options available.
A 2D ultrasound provides a flat black and white image.
Unless your doctor is searching for specific issues, such as a heart defect, cleft lip, or neural difference, a 2D image should give them all the info they need.
Do you get an ultrasound in the 3rd trimester?
Quite simply, it depends on whether you need one. In many cases, you won’t — but sometimes your doctor may want to take another look.
As this study tells us, there are currently no standardized guidelines that steer who might need a third trimester ultrasound and who might not.
Your doctor will work with you to see if this is a good option for you.
If you have any health risks, such as high blood pressure, or you have experienced unusual bleeding, the doctor may want to have a look to see what’s up.
If your doctor is concerned about the position of your placenta or low levels of amniotic fluid, they may also want to do a third trimester scan.
Can too many ultrasounds hurt the baby?
According to ACOG, ultrasounds are considered safe for you and your baby when used for medical purposes.
But they do emphasize that you should only have them for medical reasons, and that they should only be performed by medical professionals.
That’s because the research is still young on what excessive overexposure to this technology can do to you and your baby — particularly when not in the hands of a trained expert.
How many ultrasounds during pregnancy is too many?
It’s best to make the decision of how many ultrasounds you need to have under the guidance of your doctor.
In many cases, this will be one or two.
If they want to monitor you more closely, you might have three.
In recent years, there has been an interest in “keepsake” ultrasounds, where private companies are offering fetal ultrasound services for nonmedical purposes.
It’s totally understandable that you might want to get an extra sneak peek at your little one swimming inside you — particularly in 3 or 4D.
But the FDA has warned against the use of ultrasound technology for this purpose.
While we don’t know for sure if overexposure is dangerous, we don’t know for sure that it isn’t.
We do know that this technology can heat your body’s tissue slightly.
This doesn’t seem to pose a risk when done routinely by medical professionals.
But we just don’t know what the effects might be of too much exposure in the long run.
It’s probably not worth the risk.
If you feel like chatting through all this with your Peanut community, why not join us? We know you’ll fit right in!
All the best with your scans, mama.
💡 More from The 411:
First Trimester Ultrasound: What to Expect
What to Expect at Your 7 Week Ultrasound
8-Week Ultrasound: What to Expect
16 Week Ultrasound: What to Expect
What to Expect at Your 20 Week Ultrasound
30 Week Ultrasound: What to Expect
36 Week Ultrasound: What to Expect
40 Week Ultrasound: Key Facts
Nuchal Translucency Ultrasound: What You Need to Know