Dating Ultrasounds in Pregnancy: What You Need to Know
Dating Ultrasounds scans are essential in pregnancy. It allows your doctor to confirm your baby’s heartbeat, see your baby’s size, and determine your exact due date.
An accurate due date is essential, as it allows your doctor to monitor your baby’s growth and ensure they’re developing properly.
Most women get a first-trimester ultrasound, also known as a dating ultrasound, between weeks 8 and 14.
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What Is a Dating Ultrasound?
A dating ultrasound measures your baby’s size and can provide an estimated due date (EDD). It uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of your baby in the womb.
Dating ultrasounds are often done early in pregnancy to confirm the exact gestational age of the baby and ensure the pregnancy is developing correctly. It is typically performed between 8 and 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The baby’s crown-to-rump length is measured during the scan to determine size and growth.
The ultrasound technician will also look for a heartbeat and check that the baby has normal anatomy for the stage of pregnancy.
The dating ultrasound provides a more accurate due date for your baby and helps ensure your baby is developing correctly. It can also detect ectopic and multiple pregnancies.
What Happens During a Dating Ultrasound Scan?
A dating ultrasound will be performed either via the transvaginal or transabdominal method. For transvaginal ultrasounds, the ultrasound probe will be inserted into your vagina.
For transabdominal ultrasounds, the probe will be moved over your abdomen. Both methods are safe for you and your baby.
During the ultrasound scan, the sonographer will put gel on your abdomen and move the probe around to get the best views of your baby.
You will see your baby on the screen and hear the heartbeat. The sonographer will measure your baby from head to bottom to determine gestational age and estimated due date.
Your baby will look like a tiny tadpole as all the major internal organs and facial features start developing around weeks 9 to 12.
After your scan, your doctor will confirm a due date and schedule your next prenatal checkup. It’s common for dating ultrasounds to be off by 3 to 5 days as every baby grows at a different rate.
The due date may be adjusted based on your dating ultrasound measurements. Always talk to your doctor about any concerns you have with your dating ultrasound.
What Are the Risks of Getting a Dating Ultrasound?
There are a few potential risks associated with getting a dating ultrasound:
1. False Due Date
Ultrasounds are accurate for determining gestational age, but there is still a tiny margin of error.
The ultrasound may estimate a due date that is off by a few days or weeks. If the dates are inaccurate, this can lead to concern over the lack of fetal growth later in pregnancy.
It’s a good idea also to use your menstrual cycle dates to calculate an estimated due date to compare with the ultrasound date.
2. Undue Anxiety
Seeing an ultrasound image of your baby is very exciting, but there is also a tiny chance the ultrasound may detect an abnormality or potential issue.
Most of the time, these initial findings end up being no cause for concern, but they can produce anxiety in the short term. Only a tiny percentage of follow-up ultrasounds reveal an actual problem.
3. Ultrasound Waves Exposure
Ultrasound technology has been used for decades and is considered very safe, but exposure to ultrasound waves could pose a small theoretical risk.
However, ultrasound heats body tissues slightly, and some experts worry that heating effects could harm a developing fetus.
No consensus exists on whether ultrasound exposure can cause developmental delays or other issues. Most doctors consider the benefits of diagnostic ultrasounds to outweigh any potential risks.
4. Unnecessary Repeat Ultrasounds
A dating ultrasound is medically indicated, but receiving too many additional ultrasounds may increase the overall risk.
Ultrasounds should only be used when medically necessary to obtain important information or to check on a potential issue. Casual or recreational use of ultrasounds is not recommended.
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5. User Error
The quality and accuracy of an ultrasound depends on the skill and experience of the ultrasonographer.
Image quality or proper measurements taken by an inexperienced operator could lead to the incorrect diagnosis or estimation of gestational age.
It’s best to have your ultrasounds done by a qualified ultrasonographer or radiologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should I Get a Dating Ultrasound?
The ideal time for a dating ultrasound is between 8 to 14 weeks of pregnancy.
This provides the most accurate estimation of your due date. Ultrasounds done before 7 weeks may be too early to detect a heartbeat and obtain an accurate measurement.
Ultrasounds done after 14 weeks may be less accurate for dating a pregnancy.
Do I Have to Get a Dating Ultrasound?
A dating ultrasound is not medically required, but confirming your due date and checking your baby’s health is highly recommended.
If you have regular menstrual cycles and know the date of your last menstrual period, a dating ultrasound may not be necessary.
However, even with regular cycles, a miscalculated due date is still possible without an ultrasound. It’s best to discuss with your doctor whether or not you need a dating ultrasound.
How Accurate Are Dating Ultrasounds?
Dating ultrasounds between 8 to 14 weeks accurately estimate gestational age and a due date.
They can determine a due date within 3 to 5 days. The accuracy depends on the ultrasound image’s quality and the ultrasonographer’s skill.
Ultrasounds done earlier or later in pregnancy tend to be less accurate for dating.
Can a Dating Ultrasound Detect Anomalies or Genetic Disorders?
While a dating ultrasound can detect significant structural abnormalities at this stage, it may be too early to detect many genetic disorders or minor anomalies.
A dating ultrasound alone does not provide enough detail about fetal anatomy to rule out the possibility of genetic disorders.
Further testing like maternal blood tests, amniocentesis, or CVS is needed to determine risks for genetic abnormalities.
Do I Need an Internal (Transvaginal) Ultrasound?
Whether a transvaginal or abdominal ultrasound (over the belly) is used depends on factors like your body type, uterus position, and gestational age.
Earlier in pregnancy, between 8 to 14 weeks, a transvaginal ultrasound often provides the best images because the fetus is still tiny.
An abdominal ultrasound may not produce clear enough pictures at this stage. Either method is considered safe so you can discuss with your doctor the best option based on your situation.
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A dating ultrasound can provide an estimated due date, check your baby’s heartbeat and size, detect multiple pregnancies, and confirm your baby’s development is on schedule.
It is an exciting first glimpse at your little one and the start of your journey to parenthood.
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