Terms & Conditions

Everything you need to know about ultrasounds

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling, a midwife for over 25 years, is the Director of Midwifery Studies at UTS. She believes research, innovation and good quality midwifery are pivotal to the well-being of mothers and young families. Christine has extensive experience in antenatal education, policy development and research, and has published on workforce issues, homebirth, vaginal birth...
Created on Oct 18, 2023 · 3 mins read

If you’ve watched movies or TV then you’ve probably at some stage seen a woman getting an ultrasound on her belly when she’s pregnant. And while birth in movies is often over dramatised and unrealistic, when it comes to the ultrasounds they’re often pretty close to what you can expect in real life.

Ultrasounds are a painless, non-invasive and safe way of seeing your baby and for your doctor to monitor the health and growth of your child. As well as being pretty cool getting to see your baby, they are also extremely invaluable to your doctor for their ability to potentially detect abnormalities before the birth, estimate your due date, track the position of the placenta and even determine the sex of your little one.

Thanks to major advancements in technology, you can now see a 4D colour image of your baby, as opposed to the black and white 2D blurry images that parents-to-be previously had. Depending on your location, not all facilities may be equipped to offer 4D imaging however so speak with your doctor or clinic about what they can offer, but even the 2D images these days have come a long way.

Who performs an ultrasound?

Ultrasounds can be performed by either your obstetrician or a trained sonographer and they work by using sound waves that bounce off of your baby’s body parts to produce an image. The person performing the ultrasound will use a transducer (covered in gel) and place it on your abdomen, which will then transmit an image to the screen for you to see.

What are the types of ultrasounds I will have when I’m pregnant?

First up you’ll likely have a dating scan which will confirm (although it’s only ever an estimate) your due date, this is usually carried out within 10-13 weeks of pregnancy.

Nuchal translucency scan

A nuchal translucency scan is a scan you can undertake from around 12 weeks that may detect chromosomal abnormalities including trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome) or trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome) by measuring the nuchal fold as the base of the babies neck. The test will determine if you are a high risk or low risk of any of these abnormalities. If you are deemed high risk your doctor may recommend further testing.

Morphology scan

A morphology scan is then usually performed at around 18-22 weeks and this detailed scan will cover off the health and growth of your baby as well as its development, the placenta, umbilical cord, the amniotic fluid around your baby, as well as your uterus and cervix.

If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy then this may be all the ultrasounds you have. However, in some cases, such as if you are having twins, you have gestational diabetes or any other health concerns, your doctor might request further scans as your pregnancy progresses. This is not any reason to panic, it’s usually just a precaution so your doctor has the best idea of what is going on inside of you as the birth approaches.

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How much do ultrasounds cost?

This depends on where you undergo the procedure and which scan you are having. However, Medicare should cover at least some of the costs, and your private healthcare may also cover some too.

You can elect not to have ultrasounds, however, it is recommended that you do in order for your doctor to properly monitor both your and your baby’s health. Ultrasounds help caregivers pick up any potential issues early on – and it’s also a really nice way for you to see and connect with your baby.

Always speak with your doctor or midwife if you are unsure or have any questions.

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