Most women having a baby will probably have an ultrasound test during the pregnancy. This simple test is quite safe for both mother and baby and causes only minor, if any, discomfort.
Ultrasound is a way of taking a look at the baby without using potentially dangerous X-rays. Sound waves are used instead, in a similar way to radar.
A type of jelly is spread on the mother's skin and a device producing the sound waves is moved over the skin. The sound waves ‘bounce’ off the baby and other internal structures, creating a picture on a TV screen.
Ultrasound is used in pregnancy for several reasons. Here are some examples.
In an uncomplicated pregnancy it is quite common to perform an ultrasound at about 18 to 20 weeks. This allows confirmation of the due date and a chance to rule out any major abnormalities.
As well as its use in pregnancy, ultrasound is a useful tool in the diagnosis of many other conditions including gallstones, breast lumps, and kidney and bladder problems. A specialised form of ultrasound can also be used to image the heart.
Last Reviewed: 02 May 2009