FAQs About Obstetrical Ultrasound

What is an obstetric (OB) ultrasound?

An obstetric ultrasound is a diagnostic examination performed during pregnancy by a doctor or specialized sonographer. Ultrasound uses sound waves sent into your body through a scanner that is placed on the skin. The sound waves are not harmful, are safely reflected off of the internal organs inside the body, and converted into an image on a screen. Ultrasound images are not photographs and require training to interpret properly. 

You can learn more from the Association for Medical Ultrasound by clicking here.

Is ultrasound safe?

Yes, ultrasound is safe. To date, there are no confirmed adverse effects in humans caused by exposure to ultrasound. Ultrasound should be used only for medical reasons and should not be used only for entertainment.

Why am I having an ultrasound during pregnancy?

Most commonly ultrasound is done during pregnancy to help your doctor determine the age of your pregnancy (your due date) and to determine that your baby is developing as expected. Ultrasound can also detect problems with the placenta (afterbirth), amniotic fluid (water around the baby), and maternal pelvic organs (uterus, ovaries and cervix). Ask your prenatal care provider if you do not understand why your ultrasound was ordered.

How long does an ultrasound appointment take?

Generally an ultrasound appointment takes 30 minutes plus check in time. You should safely plan to be at the provider office for an hour. As with any medical office, unexpected patient needs can arise that cause an office to be delayed in their appointment times. The Fetal Diagnostic Center does have multiple appointment schedules as they offer different types of appointments (consults, ultrasounds, non-stress tests). Sometimes other people  may be taken ahead of you because the service they are being seen for uses different staff and equipment. This is normal and we are confident the FDC staff works diligently to start your appointment as soon as possible. We encourage you to speak with the front office staff if you have questions about your wait time.

Who will I see for my ultrasound visit?

The majority of ultrasound exams are performed by a certified sonographer, and otherwise a doctor will do it. Sonographers are specially trained to take images and they may ask you questions regarding your medical history. They are concentrating on getting the best images so they often do not talk much during your exam; this is normal. They may point out parts of your examination, but they are not allowed to provide medical advice or a diagnosis because they are not doctors. Maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) doctors specially trained to detect pregnancy problems will interpret your ultrasound images, and may ask you questions. Our MFM team is involved in training medical students and doctors for specialty care, so you may have additional professionals involved in your visit. Anyone providing you care should introduce themselves. If you have questions about who is providing care for you or about your ultrasound results, we encourage you to ask to speak with one of the MFMs.

Does an ultrasound examination guarantee that my baby is normal and will be born healthy?

No. Although the exams are very thorough, some abnormalities/problems cannot be seen before delivery or during ultrasound because they are too small or not detectable by ultrasound. The size and position of the baby may prevent certain problems from being seen. Problems may develop at a later time after your ultrasound. When your baby’s body parts look normal, this is very reassuring, but not a 100% guarantee that your baby will be born normal or develop normally. We will always let you know if there is a concern found during your ultrasound and any recommended follow-up testing or treatment.

Will I found out the sex of my baby during the ultrasound?

Ultrasound can determine the sex of the baby when the baby is large enough and in the right position to see structures between the baby’s legs (male, female or ambiguous genitalia). Ultrasound cannot determine a baby’s gender. Gender means how a person identifies when they are older and cannot be determined before birth. The accuracy of fetal sex determination is never 100%. Even though you may be curious to find out your baby’s sex, this is never the main reason for doing an ultrasound during pregnancy.  It may not be possible to accurately see the baby’s sex during your ultrasound examination. Knowledge of your baby’s sex before birth is a personal decision. We encourage you to let the sonographer know your preference for finding out the sex at the beginning of your ultrasound examination.

Will I receive pictures of my baby after my ultrasound examination?

If you wish to receive pictures printed from your exam, ask your sonographer before the end of your visit. Ultrasound pictures do not look like regular photographs as they are for medical purposes; videos and CDs are not provided. Sonographers try to get pictures that you can easily recognize, and your baby’s position or age can affect the ease of recognizing what is in the picture. The sonographer’s main focus is to get good images for the exam. Three dimensional  (3D) images may be taken as part of the exam if the fetal position and amniotic fluid level allows, and this is not always part of the exam. If you do not understand or are concerned about the pictures you receive, we encourage you to ask your sonographer.

May I or my guests use mobile devices during my ultrasound examination?

Most ultrasound facilities do not allow you or guests to use phones to record or take pictures during your ultrasound exam. We encourage you to ask the facility what their policy is if you have a question about this.

When do I get the results of my ultrasound examination?

The results of your ultrasound examination will be told to you at the end of your examination either by a MFM or a certified sonographer (after the doctor has interpreted your images). Your prenatal care provider will also review the ultrasound findings with you.  An ultrasound report is usually sent to your provider within 24 hours of your examination and when needed, he or she will be informed of important findings by telephone.

If a doctor comes in to take pictures or talk to me, does that mean there is something wrong?

Not necessarily. Doctors may or may not come into your room as they are looking at your pictures in an ultrasound reading room. Often doctors may take more pictures, talk to you about normal findings, or ask questions. You will always be informed if something is concerning. If you have questions, we encourage you to ask to speak with an MFM.

May I bring my family or guests to view the ultrasound with me?

Yes.  Before your appointment please call the office location of your appointment to check the current guest policy. In the ultrasound exam room there is only one guest chair. If the current guest policy allows for children and you are bringing a child, we recommend you bring another person to monitor the child. For safety and to ensure the sonographer gets the best possible pictures for your medical exam, we do not recommend holding your child during the exam. Keep in mind that any findings, including unexpected ones, may be seen by your guests during the exam, so be mindful of who you bring to your visit.

How can I give feedback regarding my experience at FDC?

We encourage all of our patients receiving services at any facility to provide compliments and concerns to the provider you are being seen by at the time of your examination/ appointment. This way they can ensure their team members are recognized or address any concerns right away.

If you would like to provide feedback to the FDC after your appointment, you can do so by completing the Contact Us form online and selecting the location you are communicating about, calling (808) 949-WELL (9355) or letting one of your MI-Home team members know.


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