Ultrasounds During Pregnancy: How Many and How Often?

BIDMC Contributor 

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018

Ultrasounds are a regular part of prenatal medical care for most pregnant women, and also provide parents with their first glimpses of their developing baby. Although these photographs make for nice keepsakes, most women need very few scans, and medical guidelines firmly state that ultrasounds during pregnancy should be performed only when there is a valid medical indication.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there have been no reports of documented negative effects on the fetus from diagnostic ultrasound procedures. But, the ACOG discourages the use of ultrasounds for nonmedical purposes because while there are no confirmed biological effects caused by scans, there's always a possibility that some could be identified in the future.

"2D ultrasounds are the safest radiological modality offered to pregnant women, but as with everything, should be used in moderation," says Monica Mendiola, MD, a practicing physician in Women's Health at Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare-Chelsea and an instructor in Obstetrics & Gynecology at Harvard Medical School.

Most healthy women receive two ultrasound scans during pregnancy.

"The first is, ideally, in the first trimester to confirm the due date, and the second is at 18-22 weeks to confirm normal anatomy and the sex of the baby," explains Mendiola. "As long as these ultrasounds are normal and mom's abdomen measures consistent with her gestation, then that is all most women need."

Mendiola notes that if there are any problems with these initial ultrasounds, or if there is a discrepancy in the fetus size along the way, a repeat ultrasound is warranted.

"Additionally, if moms have medical issues such as diabetes or hypertension, then they will also receive additional scans," she says. 

 

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.