What to Expect at a Prenatal Ultrasound
One of the greatest and most exciting miracles about expecting a baby is your ability to actually see the precious child growing inside the mother’s (or surrogate mother’s) tummy. Modern day ultrasounds make this fantastic imagery possible, providing three-dimensional views of the baby, picture printouts, gender determinations, and much more. This is a highlight for any expectant family and parent, including those in the surrogacy program.
What This Technology Means for You
Diagnostic medical technology is not merely a fun and interesting aspect of pregnancy, though it is that! Ultrasounds are an important medical step in prenatal care. The technology detects and measures many different things, including the baby’s size, which can help determine the exact due date and expected size at birth. Surrogate mothers and intended parents can also see the child’s skeletal structure as well as important soft tissue structures, like the heart, kidneys, liver, bladder, and other organs.
It takes a practiced eye to find, recognize, and analyze these tiny details via ultrasound, and ultrasound technicians have specific degrees and certifications for this field beyond a medical or pre-med bachelor’s degree. Diagnostic medical sonography is an invaluable service to doctors caring for pregnant patients and for intended parents, who look forward to learning as much as they can about their baby before the new addition arrives.
What to Expect at Early Ultrasounds
Most women, including those who conceive naturally and those who undergo fertility treatment or in-vitro to conceive, will receive an early ultrasound, typically in the first trimester (first 13 weeks). This ultrasound confirms the pregnancy, the baby’s functioning heartbeat, and the anticipated due date. An early ultrasound is considered even more essential in cases of surrogacy or IVF pregnancies because of all of the delicate procedures that the surrogate mother has undergone to become pregnant with the fetus.
In these ultrasounds done between 6 to 12 weeks gestation, the baby is tiny and may look like anything from a tiny grain of rice to a curved shape where multiple mounds are beginning to separate into a head and body.
What You Will See at Later Ultrasounds
The number of ultrasounds a carrying mother will receive during pregnancy can vary greatly depending upon the physician’s preference, the medical necessity, the insurance coverage, and the preference of the parents. It is typical for a woman to receive at least one ultrasound during the second trimester to analyze the baby’s development, account for essential limbs and organs, and to determine gender, if the parents wish to find out. This ultrasound, also called an anatomy scan, is usually done between 16 to 20 weeks.
The baby’s growth is far enough along that you may be able to distinguish the head, the legs, the arms, the spine, and even tiny fingers and toes. It is an exciting step in any pregnancy. Depending upon the baby’s position in the womb and how much the baby moves during the examination, the ultrasound technician may even be able to get pictures of the baby’s face and profile, as well as specific features like fingers and toes.
For intended parents and surrogate mothers, this is a truly special appointment to attend together. Both parties can come away with pictures, memories, and a deepened bond with the baby. For parents who are unable to experience the pregnancy firsthand, it can be especially wonderful to be able to post ultrasound pictures on their fridge where they can feel a connection to the process on a daily basis.
Abnormalities and Other Conditions
While it is rare to find abnormalities during an ultrasound, it can happen. Some things a sonographer will look for include cleft lip, missing or shortened limbs, spinal cord defects (spinal bifida), kidney problems, heart problems, tumors, excess fluid, placenta location and condition, and amniotic fluid levels.
Sonographers may not immediately notice abnormalities and will not discuss them with you if they do. Potentially abnormal findings will go to the physician first to examine them and then to discuss the findings with you. Other conditions, like genetic diseases or predispositions are done through other testing methods.
Ultrasounds in Surrogacy
Ultrasounds are just as important and special in cases of surrogate parenting as they are in other pregnancies. In fact, the ultrasounds may even carry more weight as they are reassuring both the intended parents and the surrogate mother who is carrying the baby. It can be a great bonding experience for both parties, and one that all will remember. This is one of the instances that surrogate mothers cherish about the process, because of how strongly it allows them to connect to the baby and to the intended parents. It is truly one of the most rewarding aspects of the program.