What is a fetal ultrasound?

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Fetal ultrasound is a safe, painless imaging test that is performed during pregnancy to create and view images of the developing fetus, placenta and amniotic fluid inside the uterus.

During a fetal ultrasound, an ultrasound technician applies a special gel to the woman's abdomen or, in the case of a vaginal ultrasound, directly onto a special probe called a transducer which is inserted into the vagina. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the transducer and then bounce back to a computer that uses those sound waves to create an image of the fetus on the screen.

The following body structures in the developing fetus are usually examined during a routine fetal ultrasound:
  • head and brain
  • heart
  • abdomen and stomach
  • bladder
  • spine
  • kidneys
  • limbs
  • umbilical cord
Because fetal ultrasound is a low-risk, painless procedure that can provide a wealth of information to the pregnant woman and her doctor, the procedure has become a routine part of prenatal care in the United States.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.