Your Pregnancy Ultrasound Questions Answered

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Since becoming an Ultrasound Tech, I’ve had a lot of pregnancy related questions. Many women come to an ultrasound and aren’t sure what to expect if it is their first baby. They wonder why their bladder has to be full and what exactly the ultrasound tech is looking at. You might be able to make out body parts, a heart beat and more. I thought I would answer a few most asked questions that I get from friends, family and patients. I am in no way an expert and not everyone does things the same way. These are things I learned through my program, from my mentor, and text books. Protocols may differ depending on the office or hospital. Pictures used in this post are actually ones of my beautiful daughter, who is now 11 months old!


11 months old baby


1. Why does my bladder have to be full?
This is probably the number 1 question I get. There are a few different reasons. Early in your pregnancy, a full bladder is good to have for picture quality. The bladder is located in front of the uterus. Sound goes faster through liquid in the bladder and also pushes the uterus down. Because the sound goes faster through the bladder, it gives a nice picture of the uterus and baby below. If you are also having a transvaginal ultrasound, the tech will have you empty your bladder before this scan. This is because the probe rests right against the cervix and if the bladder was full, that is all you would see.


At 20 weeks, a full bladder is important for the first part of the ultrasound. A tech will measure the cervix with a full bladder and then measure it again after the patient uses the restroom. This ensures that there is no shortening or opening/funneling of the cervix when the bladder is empty. I know some dr.’s offices don’t do this. I didn’t have to have a full bladder when I went in for my 2nd pregnancy at 20 weeks.


Tiny baby bean at 5 weeks and 3 days.

Tiny baby bean at 5 weeks and 3 days.


2. Why is 2D ultrasound used instead of 3D?
3D ultrasound is really awesome. You can see baby’s features well if there is a good amount of fluid in front of the face. You would also be able to see things like cleft lips or other external anomalies. 2D is used for most diagnostics because we can look through the baby to see internal organs, structures in the brain and more. There really is a lot that is measured and accounted for in a 20 week ultrasound, however it isn’t perfect. You can’t pick up all anomalies.


3D ultrasound at 26 weeks

3D ultrasound at 26 weeks


3. Does drinking juice or eating sugar help the baby move?
Yes, these can definitely help the baby become active and move more during the ultrasound.


4. Why is the anatomy scan done at 20 weeks?
By 20 weeks, baby has organs and structures in place. There is also a good amount of fluid around the baby and baby is small enough that it’s not hard to get good pictures. Once the baby starts getting bigger, it can be hard to get good pictures. For example, it is really hard to do a screening ultrasound on a 34 week baby. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but baby is a lot bigger and it is much more time consuming with pictures that aren’t as optimal.


5.  At what point can you see the gender of the baby?
Usually you can see the gender of the baby by 16-17 weeks.  There are, however, theories out there to figure it out sooner.  One is the nub theory.  I actually used the nub theory and at 13 weeks called that my daughter was a girl.  I waited another 3 weeks to tell anyone, but I ended up being right!  It’s easier to see as baby gets bigger and is optimal to see at around 20 weeks.


18 weeks ultrasound, it's a girl!

18 weeks ultrasound, it’s a girl!


6. Why would you do both an abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound on an early pregnancy?
Both scans together give a good, comprehensive scan. Looking from the belly gives an overall view and allows you to see more in the pelvis side to side and up and down. The transvaginal may give a bit more detail to the pregnancy if it is very early and can give additional detail.


7. Why can’t an ultrasound tech give me results?
Obviously as an ultrasound tech, I know what I am looking at. I know if everything is ok or not. Often times, I have patients that become very frustrated because they want to know results. That is not my job, that is the job of the doctor. If an ultrasound tech gives you results, that is essentially diagnosing, which a tech does not have the authority to do. That doesn’t mean you tech can’t point out structures, if baby is a boy or girl, etc.



Baby Profile Picture

Baby Profile Picture



What other questions have you had before or during an ultrasound?  



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  1. 12

    These are great explanations. Thanks for posting this. (We found out what Hawk was at 14 weeks, I think!)
    Lisa Johnston´s last blog post ..2 Free “The Voice” Downloads from CLEAR SCALP & HAIR THERAPY™

  2. 13

    Thanks for sharing these. I’ve wondered myself.
    Sarah @ Must Have Mom´s last blog post ..Sunday Sweeps Giveaway Linky! 7/27/14 Edition!

  3. 14

    This is a great post, you answered lots of things I’ve wondered about {definitely the bladder thing} and even a few things I never thought about! Also, I can’t believe she’s 11 months old already!
    Shell Feis´s last blog post ..Find Your Perfect Pairing on P.F. Chang’s Summer Menu

  4. 15

    My son was a girl. Then a boy. Then a we don’t know. 🙂
    Lisa´s last blog post ..I am Groot #VinDiesel #GuardiansOfTheGalaxyEvent

  5. 16

    I had many ultrasounds with my second child. We loved our tech, who boasted a 100% accuracy rate when it came to sexing.
    valmg @ Mom Knows It All´s last blog post ..Going Back To School? #GoBackHealthy With @MinuteClinic

  6. 17
    Angela S says:

    It’s been a long time since I have had an ultrasound. I learned a lot from reading this.

  7. 18

    We had an ultrasound at 13 weeks also & were told the baby’s gender. Technology sure has come a long way!
    Crystal´s last blog post ..Creating Piston Peak National Park

  8. 19

    Such an awesome and informative post! I always had so many questions during my pregnancy.
    Melissa´s last blog post ..Keeping your Feet Healthy All Summer Long

  9. 20

    This is great information for moms to be!
    Beth´s last blog post ..Making the Return Home Effortless

  10. 21

    I enjoyed this post – it was pretty much all of the questions I had when I was pregnant with my son. Thanks for sharing!!!!
    Cayce Lovato´s last blog post ..I Am Whole30!

  11. 22

    Things have changed so much since I was pregnant and had ultrasounds! I always thought being a technician would be amazing. So great to learn these things from someone who does them.
    Mimi´s last blog post ..My How Time Flies

  12. 23

    What a great post! I had so many of these questions when I was pregnant with all three!
    Jennifer @ Mom Spotted´s last blog post ..Just Got Back From Blogger Bash NYC 2014 #BBnyc #btbBABY

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