You have just learned you are pregnant. You did not expect it, and you never thought you would be wrestling with such a big decision. Now what? Where do you start looking for resources and accurate, unbiased answers to your questions?
You do not have to navigate this journey alone. Willow Womens Center will help you find the answers to your questions. We will walk with you, one step at a time, amidst the tremendous stress of an unexpected pregnancy. One of those steps will be an ultrasound, provided by our licensed medical professionals at no cost.
What is an Ultrasound?
A pregnancy ultrasound is a safe medical test that creates images on a screen using sound waves. These images supply important facts to help you make informed decisions about an unexpected pregnancy.
Pregnancy ultrasounds can be transabdominal or transvaginal.
- Transabdominal ultrasound
A transabdominal ultrasound is external. First, the ultrasound technician uses a warm gel that is placed on your abdomen. Then, they move a small handheld ultrasound transducer across the gel on your belly. The transducer painlessly transmits sound waves that create an image on a nearby screen.
- Transvaginal ultrasound
A transvaginal ultrasound is internal and used most often earlier in pregnancy because it provides more accurate images when the fetus is smallest. When you have a transvaginal ultrasound, the ultrasound technician gently inserts a small tampon-like transducer inserted into your vagina.
The technician can glean the information needed in the same way as a transabdominal ultrasound by viewing images transmitted onto a computer screen.
Your ultrasound images are studied by a physician who will provide a final report. The information you receive from your ultrasound provides invaluable answers to questions that will help guide you as you decide about your unexpected pregnancy.
Why an Ultrasound?
You now know the details of having a pregnancy ultrasound, but why would you need one, especially if you are considering an abortion? We will answer that question next.
An ultrasound determines pregnancy viability, your conception date, gestational age, and if you have a multiple pregnancy.
- Pregnancy viability
Most likely, you discovered you were pregnant by taking a home pregnancy test. A pregnancy test lets you know that the hCG pregnancy hormone was detected in your urine, but it does not tell you if your pregnancy is viable — or healthy. You can have a positive pregnancy test along with a nonviable pregnancy.
A nonviable pregnancy has no likelihood of surviving. This can happen if the pregnancy has implanted outside of the uterus (i.e., an ectopic pregnancy) or if no fetal heartbeat is detected. Why would you want to know this? Because up to 25% of known pregnancies are nonviable and end in miscarriage, and if your pregnancy is nonviable, it changes the options available to you when your pregnancy is unintended.
To summarize, an ultrasound is an essential follow-up step after you have a positive pregnancy test because a pregnancy test alone does not confirm a viable pregnancy — only an ultrasound will tell you if your pregnancy is viable or not. And this is crucial information to have before making a decision about an unexpected pregnancy.
- Conception date and gestational age
An ultrasound also determines an accurate date of conception. That means when you became pregnant and informs you about how far along you are in your pregnancy.
If your pregnancy is unexpected, and you are considering abortion, this information is particularly important to have since different options are available to you depending on gestational age (how many weeks pregnant you are). So knowing what stage of pregnancy you are in is critical for you to make an educated decision.
- Multiple pregnancy
About 1 in every 250 natural pregnancies are with twins; that is information you probably want to have. After a positive pregnancy test, an ultrasound can tell if you have a multiple pregnancy.
Now that we have looked at what an ultrasound is and why it is essential to follow up your pregnancy test with an ultrasound, we can discuss timing. When is an ultrasound most beneficial?
A pregnancy ultrasound should be performed after it has been six weeks since the first day of your last period. This ensures that your pregnancy is far enough along to provide accurate and valuable information.
If you have an ultrasound less than six weeks after the first day of your last period, it can lead to confusion. Sometimes, even if you have a viable pregnancy, the ultrasound does not detect it before six weeks. When this happens, it can increase your anxiety as it leaves you wondering.
If you are early in your pregnancy and the ultrasound is inconclusive, meaning your healthcare provider cannot determine if the pregnancy is viable or not, you can make an appointment in another week or two for a follow-up ultrasound.
There are several reasons why a viable pregnancy would not be detected on ultrasound:
- The pregnancy is too early to detect
- Conception occurred later in your menstrual cycle
- Mistaken last missed period date
- Larger abdomen
- Tipped uterus
The last thing you need right now is to add to your stress by having to face more uncertainty and waiting after an inconclusive ultrasound. So, be sure to schedule your pregnancy ultrasound appointment at least six weeks or longer after the first day of your last period when the ultrasound is most beneficial.
Rest assured that waiting six weeks will not limit your options for an unintended pregnancy in any way. You will still have the same choices available to you, but you will have more accurate information to make your choices with.
Get Reliable Support
Call (608) 312-2025, or make a confidential appointment online with Willow Womens Center today. We understand that you can feel bombarded with information, facts, and conflicting advice when you are facing an unexpected pregnancy.
Our compassionate advocates and licensed medical professionals are available to answer your questions in a judgment-free environment. We are committed to empowering you, so you can feel good about making an informed decision.