Detecting Fetal Abnormalities Through Ultrasound
Birth defects can have life threatening consequences for the fetus. Many birth defects can be detected during pregnancy by an ultrasound. Some of these abnormalities include abdominal wall defect, orofacial cleft, anencephaly, and down syndrome. Although at this time ultrasound is the safest way to observe a fetus, risks are still associated with it.
An ultrasound is a test that sends sound waves into the woman’s abdomen or vagina in order to create an image to observe how the fetus is developing within the womb (“Pregnancy Ultrasound,” n.d.). Some of the many names for an ultrasound include pregnancy ultrasound, babi, obstetric ultrasonography, and an obstetric sonogram. The ultrasound can be done in either a hospital, doctor’s office, or a clinic (“Pregnancy Ultrasound,” n.d.). An ultrasound can performed transabdominally or transvaginally. A transabdominal ultrasound is performed over the woman’s abdomen and usually takes about 30-60 minutes. A transvaginal ultrasound is when the transducer is inserted into a woman’s vagina and it typically takes 15-30 minutes. A transducer is a handheld tool which is also called a probe. This is placed against the mother’s abdomen and helps to create the image of the fetus during a transabdominal ultrasound. During a transavigal ultrasound this probe is inserted into the woman’s vagina (“Fetal Ultrasound,” n.d.). The test is performed by using a gel which is water-based and a probe, or transducer, to transmit the sound waves. The sound waves hit the baby and in return create an image. A full bladder is often used to help create a good image. The only discomfort to the mother would be when pressure is placed onto her full bladder, she cannot feel the sound waves (“Pregnancy Ultrasound,” n.d.). “A pregnancy ultrasound may be done in the first trimester to confirm a normal pregnancy, determine the baby’s age, look for problems, such as ectopic pregnancies or the chances for a miscarriage, determine the baby’s heart rate, look for multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.), [and] identify problems of the placenta, uterus, cervix, and ovaries.” (“Pregnancy Ultrasound,” n.d.). During the second trimester an ultrasound is done to look for structural anomalies, birth defects, and to measure the size and age of the fetus (CDC, 2011a). The complete results of the ultrasound are typically not available until 1-2 days after the test. Normal results do not always guarantee a 100% healthy fetus. Ultrasounds do not show all birth defects and do not always determine the accurate age and weight of the fetus. Many factors can affect the result of the test, some of these include: an overweight mother, the presence of feces or air in the rectum or intestines, “an abnormally low amount of amniotic fluid, some fetal positions, [and] a very active fetus” (“Fetal Ultrasound,” n.d.). The phrase “abnormal results” has many meanings. Abnormal results can...