Do I need to get an ultrasound?

Ultrasound; medical; pregnancy

An unexpected pregnancy will bring up many emotions and questions.  If you’ve taken a pregnancy test and the result was positive, the next step is to get an ultrasound.  Here at Heartbeats, we provide free and confidential ultrasounds so that you can get all of the information you need before moving forward in your decision making.

Our ultrasounds can help determine a few important factors:

  1. Confirm that you are actually pregnant (home tests aren’t always right!)
  2. Determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.
  3. Determine any risk factors before proceeding with your pregnancy decision.    


An ultrasound uses sound waves to image the parts of a developing fetus as well as the mother’s placenta and uterus. The ultrasound transducer sends out a beam of sound waves into the mother’s body and shows the images on a monitor.

There are two main methods of ultrasound. The first is an abdominal ultrasound. During this procedure, a specially trained technician, or sonographer, applies a clear gel to the skin of the mother’s abdomen so the scanner can make good contact with the body.  The scanner is placed on the skin and moved around the lower abdomen as the technician performs the procedure.

The second type is a vaginal ultrasound. In this procedure, the scanner, or transducer, is enclosed with a protective covering, lubricated with a small amount of clear gel, and inserted into the vagina. The vaginal ultrasound is used during the first trimester of life (up to 13 weeks 6 days) and shows the developing baby much clearer than the abdominal ultrasound. The cervix is closed to protect the baby, so the transducer does not touch the baby. But since it’s the only barrier between the two, the scans are much clearer. 

With an abdominal ultrasound, the sound waves must penetrate skin, adipose tissue (fat), muscle, and even the bladder!  The reason a woman is asked to have a full bladder is because it will act like a pane of glass in a window, making the baby easier to be viewed.   At 14 weeks of pregnancy until the baby is born, sonographers will only use the abdominal approach.   For both procedures, a doctor will review the pictures/scans.


There are many benefits to getting an ultrasound.  While a pregnancy test confirms the presence of the hormone hCG in the body, which is an indication of pregnancy,  it does not confirm a pregnancy but an ultrasound does.  This is important since up to 25% of pregnancies may end in miscarriage.  An ultrasound can help identify if this is occurring.  

An ultrasound can help determine the gestational age of the baby.  Gestational age helps estimate an accurate due date.

An ultrasound can also check for multiple pregnancies. When there is more than one baby, the pregnancy can come with particular risks that require more frequent monitoring.

Getting an ultrasound early in your pregnancy will determine whether the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. If the implantation occurred outside the uterus then it is an ectopic pregnancy.  An ectopic pregnancy most often occurs in the fallopian tube. This type of pregnancy is called a tubal pregnancy.  Detecting an ectopic pregnancy is important because the fertilized egg cannot survive outside the uterus and will need to be removed. If an ectopic pregnancy goes undetected, there can be a rupture, which can lead to a life-threatening intra-abdominal hemorrhage. In this case, an early detection can literally save the pregnant woman’s life.  


If your intent is to continue your pregnancy you will need to choose an OB doctor. They will provide medical care as you progress in your pregnancy.  We can also provide referrals for great local OB doctors.


Whatever your pregnancy decision, an ultrasound is an important step for your health.  We provide no-cost limited obstetric ultrasounds which: date the pregnancy, confirm viability, and rule out ectopic pregnancy. These are all vital factors to know before making a pregnancy decision.

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