ultrasound scan photo

What to expect at your first ultrasound

January 23, 2014

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If this is your first pregnancy, you are likely getting all kinds of advice. Some of it you asked for, and some of it you probably didn’t ask for. Additionally, your doctors are poking and prodding your, running tests and asking all kinds of questions. It can all be a little daunting. One of the things you might be most curious about is the ultrasound exam. It’s a unique procedure and you’ve probably never experienced anything like it before. But don’t worry. The ultrasound is safe, non-invasive, and offers you the chance to meet your baby for the first time!

What is an ultrasound?

An ultrasound machine uses sound waves and specialized software to create a
live, a realtime image of the inside of your abdomen. The sound waves are generated by a tool called a transducer, which is held by the ultrasound operator and pressed against your abdomen. Sound waves from the transducer reflect back off of your baby’s features at different speeds, which the computer can interpret into a picture. Your doctor will be able to observe your ultrasound image and determine things like the position in your uterus, the age of the foetus, and even if it’s a boy or girl.

Man and woman holding an ultrasound picture of their sweet baby

Hold it in

Some doctors prefer their patients to have a full bladder for the exam since it provides a clearer picture. Drink several glasses of water before you show up and don’t go to the bathroom until after the exam. This may cause some discomfort, especially if the ultrasound operator presses the transducer firmly against your abdomen, but it should not take too long.

Gelled up

Once on the exam table, the ultrasound operator will apply a clear gel to your bare abdomen. This will allow the ultrasound transducer to glide smoothly over your skin as well as provide a clearer picture. The gel in non-toxic and will be wiped off with a towel before you get off the exam table. It may feel cold initially, but will be quickly warmed by your own body heat.


The doctor will point out things like heartbeat, position, and even the sex of the baby, if you want to know. Make sure to tell the doctor before the exam begins if you want to know the sex or if you would like it kept a secret until the day of delivery.

Clean-up and follow-up

Once the exam is over, the clear gel will be wiped off your tummy and the doctor will discuss the results of the exam with you. Congrats, you just made it through your first ultrasound! The office may give you an image from the ultrasound, which counts as your first picture of the new baby! In all, ultrasounds are safe, fast, non-invasive procedures that tell you and your doctor a lot about the health of your baby. You will likely have a couple during your pregnancy, so relish each chance to see your new baby before delivery!

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