by Shannon Bartlett
You've been in for your first prenatal visit and had your pregnancy confirmed. If your cycles are irregular or you're not sure when your last period was, your next appointment might be an ultrasound to date your pregnancy.
The ultrasound can be done at a separate facility or right in your doctor's office. Don't forget to ask for a copy of your "baby's first picture!" It makes a great memento for your digital or paper scrapbook.
When's the best time to schedule this appointment? Ultrasound dating is most accurate early in your pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor might have included the scan as part of that extensive first visit.
When performed at seven to 11 weeks gestation, a dating ultrasound can pinpoint your conception date to within three to five days. It's still fairly accurate up to end of the first trimester.
The ultrasound technician takes specific measurements of your baby. These measurements help them determine how far along you are and help to estimate a due date.
Your ultrasound appointment will probably be the standard where you're asked to drink a lot of water and the technician squeezes gel on your abdomen and uses a probe to "look" at your baby.
Most early dating appointments use transvaginal ultrasounds. A specially designed probe is used inside the vagina. Because the probe is already close to your baby bean, you won't be asked to fill up on water before the appointment. That's a plus considering the increased visits to the bathroom.
• Follow any special instructions about your ultrasound. If you're scheduled for a standard ultrasound, you'll be asked to drink several glasses of water and to not use the bathroom before your scan.
• Jot down your dates: The technician might ask you when your last period was, so bring that information to your scan.
• Schedule your next appointment if a follow-up ultrasound is recommended.
• Share your appointment: Would you like dad, your partner, older children or a close friend to meet the baby? Invite them to come along.
• Bring tissues: There's nothing quite like hearing and seeing your baby's heart, beating inside you. It brings the reality of your pregnancy home. For some women, it also brings a batch of joyful tears (more than the usual).
You're free to ask about anything but your technician will probably have you check in with your healthcare provider for the answers. It doesn't mean anything's wrong; so jot those questions down and give your midwife or doctor a call.
We've tapped our members to see what questions popped up about their dating ultrasound. They wanted to know the following:
• Can I get pictures or a video of my baby?
• Who can come along with me?
• Can I see a heartbeat at seven weeks?
• Should I have a standard ultrasound or a transvaginal ultrasound?
• What should I do if I can't wait to use the bathroom?
• What types of ultrasounds are there?
• Is inserting the probe for a transvaginal ultrasound embarrassing or uncomfortable?
• Can I expect cramping or spotting after a transvaginal ultrasound?
• Are transvaginal ultrasounds dangerous?
• Can an early ultrasound be off by four weeks?
• Does the ultrasound rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy?