After you get a positive pregnancy test, your next step is to get it confirmed by your doctor. But when can you actually see your baby?
Most people expecting are anxious for their ultrasound appointments.
Naturally, you’re probably thinking, “how many ultrasounds during pregnancy?”
In this guide, we’ll walk you through how many ultrasounds you can typically expect and what to do if you want more appointments.
How Many Ultrasounds During Pregnancy?
If you’re expecting, you might be wondering, “how many ultrasounds during pregnancy?” In general, pregnant people can expect to schedule two ultrasounds. The first ultrasound will take place in the first trimester, which will confirm your baby’s due date. The second will take place about halfway through your second trimester to determine your baby’s gender and that she’s developing normally.
Although 2 ultrasounds are standard during pregnancy, you may have more depending on your situation. For example, mothers with complicated pregnancies may require more monitoring.
Read on to discover more about how many ultrasounds there are during pregnancy.
First Ultrasound In Pregnancy: Dating Ultrasound
The first ultrasound in pregnancy usually happens in the first trimester, anywhere within the 7-12 week range. Some doctors wait until 13 or 14 weeks when the baby is bigger. However, for complicated pregnancies, an early ultrasound may be appropriate (more on this later).
By 7 or 8 weeks, your baby should be big enough to get a good picture of her development, including her heartbeat.
As the name suggests, a “dating ultrasound” is when you get your baby’s estimated due date. The date is typically within 5 days of giving birth. There’s a few other things the technician will check for:
- Confirm pregnancy by finding a heartbeat
- Detect if you have multiple pregnancies (i.e. twins)
- Rule out ectopic pregnancy (an unviable pregnancy where the fertilized egg attaches outside the womb)
Second Ultrasound: The Anatomical, Detailed or Level 2 Ultrasound
The second and final ultrasound during pregnancy typically happens in the second trimester, around weeks 18-22. It’s often called the anatomical, detailed or level 2 ultrasound.
As the name illustrates, this appointment gives a more detailed picture into how your baby is developing. They’ll look at your baby’s anatomy, shape, size, and growth. Compared to your first ultrasound, the picture will be more clear, making for a great sonogram photo to take home.
Keep in mind, this ultrasound looks for “markers” of abnormalities. While markers don’t indicate birth defects, they point toward variations from normal growth that should be further investigated. One marker typically means a healthy baby, but a combination may indicate Down syndrome or Trisomy 18. If a marker is found, your doctor may recommend further testing.
Alternatively, if prior tests have indicated a potential problem, those will be looked at more during the second ultrasound.
Besides abnormalities, the second ultrasound will also check out:
- Your baby’s heartbeat
- Your baby’s size and organ development
- Amniotic fluid levels
- Placenta location
If you choose, you can also find out your baby’s gender during this ultrasound. If you want to keep it a surprise, make sure to let your ultrasound technician and doctor know. You should also look away from the screen in case you see your baby’s genitals, hinting at their gender.
Can You Get a Third Trimester Ultrasound?
Sometimes a third-trimester ultrasound is recommended. This is usually the case if you have a high-risk pregnancy or prior ultrasounds have shown potential problems. Examples where an additional ultrasound may be required include:
- Your prior ultrasound showed a low-lying placenta (your doctor will want to see if your placenta has moved closer to delivery)
- Your baby is over or underweight
- Your baby is at a higher risk for birth defects
- You have conditions that make your pregnancy higher risk, like asthma, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes
- You have a history of or are struggling with substance use disorder and drugs you’re taking may impact your baby
For some people, ultrasounds may be recommended weekly as you approach your due date. Monitoring your amniotic fluid and fetal development in this way allows your doctor to catch problems earlier.
Additional Ultrasounds (NOT Routine)
People questioning how many ultrasounds happen during pregnancy may be wondering if you can get additional screenings. Although 2 ultrasounds are routine, depending on your situation, your doctor may order additional ultrasounds.
4 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound
Some people may wonder if they can get a 4 weeks pregnant ultrasound. This is a couple of weeks too early. At this point, your technician will be able to see a tiny dot (the gestational sac). But they won’t be able to know much about your pregnancy until you’re further along. That’s because fetal movement and heart motion can’t be detected until around week 5 or 6. In most cases, a 4 weeks pregnant ultrasound won’t give you any valuable information.
Ultrasound Pregnancy 6 Weeks
An ultrasound for pregnancy at 6 weeks is usually the earliest a doctor will order. Although it’s more rare to order an ultrasound this early, it may be necessary depending on your pregnancy. An ultrasound for pregnancy at 6 weeks may be appropriate because of your medical history, age, prior miscarriages or current complications. Your doctor will typically tell you why.
An ultrasound this early can help your physician check your baby’s heartbeat, location of the embryo, and size of the yolk sac.
A 6-week ultrasound will likely be a transvaginal ultrasound instead of an abdominal one. A transvaginal ultrasound is used when the baby is too small for an abdominal ultrasound to pick up. Instead of a probe gliding over your belly, the technician will place a wand inside your vagina. Although it usually doesn’t hurt, it might be uncomfortable.
Can I Ask for Additional Ultrasounds?
If your doctor has ordered the typical 2 ultrasounds, you might be wondering if you can ask for more. Whether it’s to ease your concerns or get another opportunity to see your baby, some parents want an extra ultrasound.
How many ultrasounds during pregnancy are ordered depend on your situation. Although you should talk to your doctor about any concerns you’re having, they usually won’t offer another ultrasound unless there’s a reason. If you simply want to check on your baby, your doctor will likely say no.
Why? Although studies have shown that having multiple ultrasounds is safe, the research isn’t definitive yet. In other words, even if there’s a small risk, why take it if you don’t have to? For this reason, most doctors will stick to the typical 2 ultrasounds unless there’s something further they need to investigate.
Using a Fetal Doppler Between Ultrasounds
If you want extra ultrasounds during pregnancy to bond with your baby, try using a fetal doppler instead. The easy-to-use device can be used between ultrasound appointments to give you a sense of comfort and connection.
Fetal dopplers are much less powerful than an ultrasound machine, but they work in a similar way. You’ll be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat and read her fetal heart rate displayed on screen. Here’s how it works:
- Apply a blob of ultrasound gel to your lower abdomen
- Stick the device’s probe inside the gel and turn it on
- Gently rock and glide the probe at an angle, similar to how an ultrasound technician works their probe
- Stop when you hear the correct noise
- Use the BabyDoppler app to record your baby’s heartbeat and keep forever
Don’t have a fetal doppler yet? Get the affordable, industry-trusted Sonoline B Fetal Doppler for just $49.95!
Learn more about fetal dopplers:
- What a Pocket Fetal Doppler CAN and CAN’T Tell You
- 9 Reasons You Should Be Using a Fetal Doppler Sonoline B
- Top Buying Guide for Fetal Dopplers: Best Models For Home Use
- 8 Benefits of Using a Fetal Doppler with a Rainbow Baby
- Heartbeat or Another Noise? 8 Tips to Discern Fetal Doppler Noises
- 7 Fun Portable Uses for Your Pocket Fetal Doppler
- DIY Heartbeat Video Keepsake with Fetal Doppler Sonoline B
Summary: How Many Ultrasounds During Pregnancy?
One of the most common questions when expecting is “how many ultrasounds during pregnancy?” For healthy pregnancies, most people can expect 2 ultrasounds: one in the first trimester and one in the second trimester. If your doctor wants to investigate further, they may order one for the third trimester.
Additional sessions may be required if you have a high-risk pregnancy. That may include an early ultrasound or weekly ultrasounds leading up to the due date. Although you can ask your doctor for an extra ultrasound, it will most likely be denied unless there’s a reason. If you want more ultrasounds simply to connect with your baby, invest in a fetal doppler instead.