Pregnancy ultrasound

Ultrasound is a painless examination to assess fetal growth, position and anatomy, and placental site, as well as the maternal uterus and ovaries. Medicare provides a rebate for ultrasound during the first and second trimester, and when there is a clinical concern. 

An accredited sonographer will conduct your ultrasound and produce the best possible images of your baby. One of our radiologists will review these images and a report and images will be sent to the doctor who requested the ultrasound.

At The Women's Imaging Centre, our sonographers care about you and your baby. Capturing the full detail of your moving baby on ultrasound is exciting for you, but also technically demanding for the sonographer. Please do not be alarmed if a sonographer re-examines a part of your baby or asks the radiologist to be in attendance during your ultrasound. This simply helps improve the accuracy of the test results.


Before your ultrasound

The sonographer may ask you to change into a gown to avoid spoiling your clothes with gel. You are welcome to bring one or two people with you, but they might be asked to wait outside for part of the scan, so that the sonographer can focus fully for the medical assessment.

Your bladder must be quite full at appointment time. Empty your bladder one (1) hour before your appointment, then drink 500mls of clear fluid or cordial during the next 30 minutes. Do not empty your bladder before your appointment unless really necessary.


During your ultrasound

Once you are safely positioned on the ultrasound couch, the sonographer will dim the lights for better viewing of the monitor. Coupling gel is used between the transducer and your skin, to enable optimal transmission of the sound waves. The transducer is moved over the area of interest. You may be asked to roll onto your side to optimise the images. If you experience any pain during the scan because of your position or the pressure of the transducer, you should advise the sonographer at that time.
We understand that this is an exciting and important time for you and your partner. While the sonographer will make every attempt to show you your baby, there will be a period of around 20 minutes when the sonographer must fulfil medical requirements, which calls for a great deal of skill and concentration. Once this has been completed the sonographer can show you your baby.

We understand that you may have many questions about your baby. Please understand that the sonographer might not be able to answer all of your questions. Your own doctor is the best person to discuss your results with you, because he or she has all the relevant information about your individual pregnancy. Your doctor will receive a copy of the report and can then discuss your baby's development with you. 

Let the sonographer know at the beginning of the scan whether you do or don’t wish to know the sex of your baby.

Ultrasound provides useful information about you and your foetus that enables appropriate antenatal care. Fetal size and heart rate are checked at all stages of pregnancy, as well as the maternal uterus, ovaries and cervix.

Ultrasound can detect many, but not all, abnormalities. Demonstrating a fetal abnormality on ultrasound depends on many factors, including fetal age and fetal position at the time of the ultrasound, and the size and type of abnormality. Image clarity depends on the resolution of the equipment and how well the ultrasound can pass through the maternal abdominal wall. For example, image clarity is reduced when the mother’s abdominal wall is thickened due to obesity or scarring.

At The Women's Imaging Centre we employ experienced, qualified sonographers accredited with the Australian Sonographer Accreditation Registry, and invest in the latest equipment to ensure you receive the very best patient care. Our staff use ultrasound with care to ensure that you and your baby benefit from what ultrasound offers, with minimum risk.


Are there any risks?

Since the 1980s, ultrasound has been extensively used throughout Australia and the world for medical imaging. The images are created when tissue at different depths reflect the ultrasound waves transmitted into the body, similar to radar used by boats and ships. At the intensities used for diagnostic medical purposes, no soft tissue damage has ever been observed in human or mammalian tissue. The sonographer will set the equipment to the lowest intensity necessary to achieve high quality images.


After your ultrasound

A radiologist will interpret your ultrasound images and provide your doctor or health care professional with a comprehensive report about the findings. You will need to return to him or her to discuss your ultrasound results. Processing and reporting of your ultrasound could take up to two hours. For your convenience we can generally deliver the images and report to your doctor, by lunchtime on the next working day.

If you require the results for a follow up appointment on the day of the scan, you can wait for the films and we will fax or email the results to your doctor. Some of our referring doctors prefer that their patients wait for their films after the scan. You may arrange to collect the films at an alternative time, if you prefer that option.

First trimester ultrasound (performed in the first 3-4 months of pregnancy)
During the first trimester, your doctor may request an ultrasound to determine the how far along you are. If you are not sure of the date of your last menstrual period, a sonographer can check fetal number and measure the crown-rump length, which will determine how far along you are (gestational age).  If you have had symptoms such as bleeding or pain during the first trimester, your doctor may request an ultrasound to determine whether the pregnancy is within the uterus in the correct position, or whether you might have miscarried. Medicare will provide a rebate for one or more scans during this period if certain clinical criteria are met.

For further information please see Combined First Trimester Screen (CFTS).

Second trimester ultrasound (performed at 18-22 weels of pregnancy)
During the second trimester, a morphology scan is used to check fetal growth, numerous important organs such as the spine, heart, brain and kidneys, placental site, and amniotic fluid volume. During the morphology scan, the sonographer will check for signs of a possible genetic problem. Your uterus and ovaries are also checked. All Australian women are encouraged to have a morphology scan, so speak to your doctor about a referral for this important scan. Medicare will provide a rebate for one or more scans during this period depending on the clinical situation and whether an obstetrician or GP refers you.

Third trimester ultrasound (performed at 22-24 weeks of pregnancy)
During the third trimester, your doctor may request an ultrasound to check the fetal position, placental appearance and site, how much fluid is around the baby, fetal well being and the baby’s growth compared with previous scans and your expected date of delivery. If at any time during the scan you feel faint or uncomfortable, please advise the sonographer who will adjust your position so that you are more comfortable. 

Whether Medicare will provide a benefit for one or more scans during this period, depends on meeting certain clinical criteria and whether an obstetrician or GP refers you. 

Advanced obstetric ultrasound is available, including 4D imaging in the 3rd trimester. Our pregnant patients have the option of choosing an additional 4D study when they attend for a diagnostic 3rd trimester ultrasound. This study can only be performed between 24 and 32 weeks when the baby's head is still high in the uterus, when there is sufficient amniotic fluid surrounding the face and when there is enough subcutaneous fat in the baby’s face. Extra time is allowed for this study and the patient is invited to bring family members to view the 4D real-time movement of the baby. The patient will also be given a CD of images.