How to Read an Ultrasound

Introduced in the 1950s, obstetric ultrasound is now one of the most useful diagnostic tools used. It's a non-invasive, safe, and accurate way of monitoring the developing of the growing fetus. You can even find healthcare providers using real-time scanners that show a continuous picture of your moving baby on a monitor screen. The experts can look at these imaging results to get important information about the growing baby. However, by knowing how to read an ultrasound, you can also get basic information about your baby.

How to Read an Ultrasound

You have to pay attention to a number of things in order to get important information from an ultrasound.

1.  Color

An ultrasound or sonogram picture is a black and white photograph, so they all look the same to someone who doesn't know much about how to read an ultrasound. You need to understand that white is solid and black is liquid. This understanding will make it easier for you to see other details in an ultrasound image. Also, note that the solider tissue will look whiter on the ultrasound, and that's why the bones look whiter and amniotic fluid will look blacker.

2.  Orientation

You have to determine the orientation of the image to read it better. You should know the mother's head is going to be on the left in a longitudinal image, but the baby's head is going to be at the top of the picture in transverse images. This is important to consider if the baby is head down or it is in the breech position. You can also look for the spine to determine if the baby is facing right or left.

3.  Characteristics of Your Baby

It is possible to determine the gender of your baby after the beginning of the second trimester. The problem is that sometimes a baby will have a leg in the way, hindering you to determine the gender. It is important to wait until the baby moves it to a better position. During the second trimester, it is also possible to distinguish eyelids, cheeks, lips, nose, chin and even hair through an ultrasound image.

4.  Any Abnormalities

To learn how to read an ultrasound, you cannot miss the unfortunate but possible structural abnormalities appeared in it. Your doctor will take fetal body measurements to ensure the baby is growing properly. You can, however, identify certain structural abnormalities on the first sonogram, and this includes congenital heart abnormalities, cleft palates and lips, spina bifida, Down syndromeand other specific conditions. It is also possible o notice placental abnormalities through ultrasonography.

Read an Ultrasound: Baby Girl or Baby Boy?

A large majority of couples who go for an ultrasound just want to know the gender of their baby. Although ultrasound images will help in this regard, the accuracy usually depends on a number of factors, including the equipment your healthcare provider uses, the age of your baby, and the cooperation of the baby.

You will have to go for an ultrasound around the midpoint in pregnancy because that's usually the time when it is possible to find out the sex of your baby. It is usually called the fetal anatomy survey that provides information about the sex of the baby and shares details about fetal anomalies. Most women will have to go for the fetal anatomy survey between 18-22 weeks of pregnancy.

Baby Girl? When determining the sex of your baby, your doctor will most probably look for female genitalia, such as clitoris and labia. When they can see it, they refer to it as the "Hamburger Sign" because the image of the clitoris is between the labial lips.

Below is a video how a mom-to-be finds it's a girl:

Baby Boy? Your healthcare provider may look for the turtle sign when looking for a baby boy. They look for the tip of the penis that usually peeks out from behind the testicles. Quite interestingly, baby boys can have erections even when in the stages of fetal development. This sometimes makes it easy to see if your baby is a boy.

Read an Ultrasound: What If There Are Some Abnormalities?

As mentioned already, you can identify abnormalities when reading an ultrasound. Many couples don't know what they should do if they notice a problem with their baby. Sometimes, it is easy to make a definite diagnosis – that's usually in case of spina bifida. On other occasions, an ultrasound may only show "markers" which are usually the signs of serious conditions such as Down's syndrome.

If you have your ultrasound checked by an expert, he or she will contact your doctor immediately after noticing any sign of abnormality. Your midwife or healthcare provider will then discuss those issues with you and may suggest further testing, such as amniocentesis or CVS to look for chromosomal abnormalities.

It is difficult to stay calm in situations when you know for sure that your baby has a health problem. It is important to work with your doctor to make your choices, which may include preparing for the birth of a baby or even ending the pregnancy. You may even benefit from counseling support to make a decision. Just be sure to keep in constant touch with your healthcare provider to make a right decision. 

 
 
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