Obstetrical Ultrasound in Ottawa

You may be feeling a range of emotions, from joy to worry, about coming in for an obstetrical ultrasound. At Premier Imaging in Ottawa, our radiologists look forward to supporting you. 

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What is an Obstetrical Ultrasound?

Our radiologists perform an obstetrical ultrasound to capture images of a fetus or embryo in the womb of a pregnant woman. This useful clinical procedure allows us to establish that a living embryo or fetus is developing, estimate how long a woman has been pregnant and collect other valuable data about the pregnancy and growing fetus.

While an obstetrical ultrasound confirms that you are, in fact, pregnant, it can also reveal much more useful information, such as congenital abnormalities in the fetus.

Of course, you may be feeling a combination of emotions before, during, and after this type of test - everything from excitement and joy to apprehension, anxiety or even numbness. 

Rest assured, these are all normal feelings  and we see them daily in patients who come for ultrasounds. While you're not alone in feeling this way, please know we understand that you have unique needs, questions, and concerns - and that we are fully prepared to address them during your appointment, or at any time in conjunction with your healthcare team.

The Obstetrical Ultrasound Procedure 

The transducer sends sound waves through the skin and records the waves that echo back. These waves are measured instantly by a computer and displayed on the monitor in real-time.

We will be able to see the mother's ovaries and uterus during the exam. Any discomfort during this procedure is typically temporary, and minimal.

  • When new or expectant parents come in for their first obstetrical ultrasound, they're often feeling a mix of emotions. Our expert radiologists can address concerns and offer valuable advice while managing this procedure with a gentle, compassionate touch.
    - Dr. Vincent Della Zazzera

Patient Preparation

Here is what you can expect during each phase of the process, along with details on what to bring with you to your appointment at our clinic.

  • Before The Test

    Before your obstetrical ultrasound, you may be asked to drink a specific amount of fluid or to avoid urinating - depending on the type of ultrasound you are scheduled to have. You will receive detailed instructions to follow when your appointment is scheduled.

    As detailed under the question "How many types of obstetrical ultrasounds are there?" in the FAQ questions to the right, you may be sent for a transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound. These would be ordered depending on the stage of your pregnancy, or the purpose of the test.

    If you are scheduled for a transabdominal ultrasound, you may want to consider wearing loose-fitting clothing so that you can expose your abdomen easily.

  • During The Test

    An obstetrical ultrasound helps establish the presence of a fetus and allows healthcare providers to assess its health and development during various stages of your pregnancy. 

    During your exam, you will be asked to lie back on the exam table and expose your abdomen. A technologist will apply a clear, warm gel to your abdomen to help conduct sound waves and remove any air pockets that may develop between the transducer and your skin.

    The transducer will be moved back and forth over your abdomen while the sound waves are transmitted back to the computer, which analyzes the data and converts it to images displayed on the monitor.

    Images of the fetus may be printed or stored, and you'll probably receive some copies of these. Depending on how developed the fetus is and its position, you may be able to see its face, fingers, and limbs.

    If it's your first ultrasound, these images can be challenging to decipher. The technologist will be able to explain what's on the monitor.

    During a transvaginal ultrasound, you will be asked to wear a hospital gown or to undress from the waist down, and place your feet in stirrups on the exam table. The transducer will be covered in a plastic sheath, lubricated with gel and inserted into your vagina. 

    The test usually takes 45 to 60 minutes.

  • After The Test

    After the test is completed, the gel will be removed from your skin. Any remaining gel will dry quickly, and would typically not stain or discolour clothing. If you needed to come to your appointment with a full bladder, you will also be able to urinate after your exam.

  • Results

    An obstetrical ultrasound will typically confirm that your baby is developing normally. Additional tests may be recommended if your doctor wishes for more details regarding your baby's health, or if a problem is suspected.

Obstetrical Ultrasound FAQs

Read the answers to our most frequently asked questions about obstetrical ultrasounds at Premier Imaging.

  • Why would I need an obstetrical ultrasound?

    An obstetrical ultrasound is a valuable tool that allows us to monitor your pregnancy and the fetus growing within you, to check for health and normal development in both mother and baby.

    With this safe, painless procedure, we can analyze the growth, position and well-being of a new or developing fetus. We can also examine your uterus and ovaries to ensure they are healthy.

  • How is an obstetrical ultrasound used throughout my pregnancy?

    Throughout your pregnancy, we can use an obstetrical ultrasound to capture important data. Common reasons you may be sent for this type of ultrasound include:

    • Testing for chromosomal abnormalities
    • Establishing the age of a pregnancy (finding out how "far along" you are)
    • Determining whether there are multiples - twins, triplets, etc.
    • Finding the cause of any potential bleeding
    • Learning how the baby is positioned in the womb
    • Examining the fetus for anatomy, growth and development

    Depending on your specific health needs and the needs of your unborn baby, your doctor may send you for multiple obstetrical ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy. Three of these exams are recommended for many women (one per trimester).

  • How many types of obstetrical ultrasounds are there?

    There are two types of obstetrical ultrasounds:

    Transabdominal ultrasounds are performed by moving the transducer (a wand-like device that transfers sound waves between your body and the computer) over your abdomen. 

    Transvaginal ultrasounds are performed by placing the transducer 2 to 3 inches into your vagina. Sound waves are sent and gather echoes. This type of ultrasound is most often conducted during the first stages of a pregnancy and may be performed if insufficient data was collected during a transabdominal ultrasound.

  • Are there any risks with obstetrical ultrasounds?

    Radiologists have used diagnostic ultrasound during pregnancy for many years. When used appropriately, the procedure is generally considered to be safe. We use the lowest amount of ultrasound energy possible, that will still provide an accurate assessment of the fetus, ovaries and uterus.

  • What are the limitations of obstetrical ultrasounds?

    We caution that obstetrical ultrasounds may not detect all birth defects - or may incorrectly suggest that there is a birth defect when one does not exist.

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