Why do Doctors Wait Until 8 Weeks? [And Other Vital Ultrasound Questions Answered]

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If you’ve just witnessed that second line on your pregnancy test – congratulations! Finding out you’re pregnant (for most) is such an exciting moment. And you must already be wondering – when can I see my baby? When should I schedule a doctor’s appointment? How often will I have them?

Here are all those questions (and more) – answered.

At How Many Weeks do You Get an Ultrasound?

You’ll probably get your first ultrasound at 8 weeks of pregnancy – aka, 8 weeks after the first day of your last period.

Why do Doctors Wait Until 8 Weeks?

I had my first ultrasound (at a private clinic) at 6 weeks pregnant. And good thing they made me wait because the first pregnancy ultrasound at 5 weeks would probably have shown nothing. Now, while my doctor was able to detect my pregnancy and calculate my due date, it was too early to hear the heartbeat. That’s why most doctors will wait until you’re 8 weeks pregnant in order to perform that first ultrasound. At 7 weeks, the heartbeat may not be heard, which can be truly terrifying for a pregnant woman. And in reality, it may just be too early to detect it, but you’ll end up feeling stressed anyway.

When do You Get Your First Ultrasound Picture?

Chances are you’ll get your first sonogram picture after that first visit to the doctor. It’s really emotional to see that tiny dot and know that’s the baby growing inside you! But make sure not to expect too much of those first few pictures. It wasn’t until I was some 10-11 weeks pregnant that I could actually see something that resembled a baby!

How Many Ultrasounds During Pregnancy Should You Get?

If you’re healthy and your pregnancy is progressing without issues, you’ll likely only get two ultrasounds until your baby is born. The first I explained in the “Why do doctors wait until 8 weeks?” section. It serves to detect your pregnancy, determine your due date, and make sure everything is fine (there’s an embryo, a heartbeat, etc.) Additionally, this ultrasound should tell you whether you’re having one or more babies.

The second ultrasound is performed between weeks 18 and 22, and it’s referred to as the basic anatomy scan ultrasound. By this time, your baby’s organs should have formed, and your doctor will take a very close look at them, as well as the baby’s limbs. They’ll be determining whether the organs are developing nicely, or if there’s some sort of delay, defect, or a cyst that requires closer inspection.

Additionally, you can opt to have another ultrasound at 11-13 weeks. Known as the Genetic screening ultrasound, it looks at some of your developing baby’s characteristics to determine the possibility of a chromosomal disorder. During this ultrasound, the doctor looks for a nasal bone and looks at the baby’s nuchal translucency, two good indicators of whether something may be wrong. When these are cross-referenced with the amount of pregnancy hormones in your blood, as well as your age, they can give you the statistical possibility of your baby having one of the more common chromosomal abnormalities. This test is called the Double Marker Test. However, you can also opt to do a prenatal DNA test instead.

Aside from those regular ultrasounds, you may have more if:

In the case of the latter, the doctors will perform growth scans, to make sure your placenta is providing enough nutrients and oxygen to your baby. You’ll also likely get growth scans if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • High BMI pre-pregnancy.

How Many Ultrasounds During Pregnancy Over 35 Should You Get?

The answer is pretty much the same – two main ones if the pregnancy is healthy. However, since chromosomal abnormalities are more common at this age, it’s very likely your OB/GYN will suggest you do a Genetic Screening as well.

Is It Safe to Have an Ultrasound Every Week?

While ultrasounds are generally safe for your baby and it isn’t likely they’ll suffer any consequences, there’s just no need to have that many examinations during pregnancy. When it comes to 3D and 4D ultrasounds, though, they tend to emit a certain amount of heat. And since they usually last a while, doctors generally agree that they shouldn’t be performed unless there’s a medical reason.

When is the Third Trimester Ultrasound Done?

While some doctors may ask you to come in for a third trimester scan, most won’t unless there’s a medical reason. If your pregnancy has been going well, you may only have a third trimester scan should you pass your due date. The doctor will likely want to make sure your baby has enough amniotic fluid and is still healthy and growing.

Of course, if your pregnancy is high-risk for any reason, you will probably get one or more third trimester scans.

And there you have it! Whether you were wondering “Why do doctors wait until 8 weeks?”, or simply wanted to know how many ultrasounds to expect, I hope I managed to answer your questions.

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