What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasound, or commonly called a scan, uses high frequency sound waves to see internal structures of the body. A hand held 'transducer' sends a brief pulse of sound into the body. When this sound reaches an internal structure it sends back a little echo. These echoes are seen as the images on the monitor of the ultrasound machine

The Ministry of Health funds the ‘first trimester combined screening’ which is between 11 and 14 weeks.  This involves a blood test, measuring blood proteins and a Nuchal Translucency ultrasound scan.  This information along with the woman’s weight and age calculates the risk of her baby having Down syndrome.

Despite being funded, it is always the parents’ choice to have it or not.

Ultrasounds may be indicated for medical reasons where complications can be diagnosed and resulting treatment or preparation initiated.

Having a routine ultrasound may seem reassuring and exciting, however it is important to keep in mind when considering an ultrasound, whether or not the information that will be provided will improve the outcome of the pregnancy for mum and/or baby.

As we do not fully understand the safety and risks around ultrasounds their unnecessary use is not recommended.

Don’t forget, it is always your choice.

 This information comes from our 'Ask A Childbirth Educator' series of questions, June 2014