Is Ultrasound Dangerous? (Spoiler: It Isn’t)

If you’ve never had an ultrasound exam done before, you may feel some hesitation about the procedure. Maybe you’ve heard stories about ultrasound being unsafe for you and your baby, or you simply don’t know what to expect. We’re here to debunk those myths and reassure you that ultrasound isn’t something to fear. 

Myth: Ultrasound Machines Use Radiation

FACT: Unlike x-rays, ultrasound machines do not use radiation. They use high frequency sound waves that bounce off your body to create the images you see on the monitor. 

Myth: The Ultrasound Scan Will Only Be Done on the Belly

FACT: There are actually two types of pregnancy-related ultrasound scans – transabdominal and transvaginal. A transabdominal ultrasound is done on the belly, like what you typically see on TV. In a transvaginal ultrasound, a wand-shaped transducer is placed in the vagina to produce the image. Don’t be afraid, this procedure may be a little awkward , but it is painless.

The transvaginal ultrasound scan may be required for the sonographer to get a clear, detailed look at your baby in early pregnancy when your baby is very small. 

Find out more about what to expect during ultrasound scans and how to prepare for them here.

Myth: The Transvaginal Transducer Might Poke the Baby

FACT: No, it’s not possible to poke the baby with the transvaginal transducer. The baby is safely inside a sac of amniotic fluid inside the uterus, which is protected by your cervix.

Watch one of our registered nurses demonstrate what goes on in your body during a transvaginal ultrasound scan:

Myth: Fasting From Food is Required Before An Ultrasound

FACT: While this may be a requirement for other types of ultrasound exams, this is not needed for pelvic scans of pregnant women.

However, we ask that you come in for your transabdominal ultrasound with a full bladder. A full bladder shifts your uterus and intestines, making it easier to perform the scan. Your body takes an hour to process fluids, so be sure to drink any liquids at least an hour before your appointment. 

Myth: Ultrasounds Are Harmful, Especially in the First Trimester

FACT: There are no confirmed harmful side effects associated with the medical use of ultrasound. No links have been found between ultrasound and birth defects, childhood cancer, or developmental problems later in life. While overly frequent ultrasound scans are not recommended, there’s no evidence that ultrasound, even in the first trimester, has any negative effect on your baby.

Ultrasound has been routinely used for decades. It is considered safe, as long as the ultrasound exam is conducted by a certified professional following national medical guidelines. At the Pregnancy Help Center, our medical services are provided by licensed medical professionals in accordance with all applicable laws, and in accordance with pertinent medical standards, under the supervision and direction of a licensed physician. The free ultrasounds we offer are provided under applicable national guidelines set forth by the American Institute in Ultrasound Medicine, the American College of Radiology, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

The Bottom Line

Ultrasound is simply a screening and diagnostic tool and nothing to be afraid of. It is used to gather important information about your pregnancy. Our limited obstetric ultrasound exam will help you determine how far along you are and whether there is a heartbeat. It will also let you know if the pregnancy is ectopic, a risky condition where the baby implants outside of the uterus and requires medical treatment

Having an ultrasound scan is an important step to take before making any decisions about your pregnancy. If you’re not sure where to go, we’re here to help. We offer free pregnancy testing, free limited obstetric ultrasound exams*, and other resources. Our client advocates provide a judgment free space to talk about your unique situation and your options.

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*Our ultrasound services are available to qualified clients who have taken a pregnancy test at the Center. If the test is positive, we will schedule you for an ultrasound exam on the next available date, which may or may not be on the same day as your pregnancy test.