Meeting Your Baby: What to Expect During Your First Ultrasound

From the moment that extra line appears on the pregnancy test, you will want to see your little one to make it all real. An ultrasound allows you to do this fairly early on.

This first ultrasound can cause a flood of emotions, making you feel both excited and nervous. Knowing what to expect will help calm your nerves about the procedure.

When your OBGYN mentions ultrasound for the first time, you may suddenly wonder what this familiar word actually means. Read on to learn all about your pregnancy first ultrasound.

What is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging refers to a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves that bounce off structures from inside the body to produce an image. Doctors frequently use ultrasound during pregnancy as it does not use radiation, like other types of imaging.

The sound does not pose any risk to the mother or baby. So, you can walk into your first pregnancy ultrasound feeling safe.

How to Prepare for an Ultrasound

You want your doctor to get a clear view of your uterus. Fortunately, an ultrasound does not require much prep.

Feed your cravings. You do not need to fast for a regular prenatal ultrasound.

Hydrate! A full bladder can make looking from the outside a little easier.

If the doctor needs an inside look, they may ask you to empty your bladder before the test. It will take you significantly less time to pee than it will to fill your bladder, so just drink up.

What Does the Doctor Look for in Your First Ultrasound?

Your doctor will do this first ultrasound to help confirm a viable and healthy pregnancy. This will also allow them to more accurately determine your due date, as guestimating the first day of the last period does not always prove reliable.

This test also lets your doctor know early on how many babies are growing. Twin and multiple pregnancies require a little extra care, so early detection can help determine this.

During this procedure, doctors can also see certain abnormalities that can develop early on. This can help you make an early decision about your next steps if your child presents with a serious chromosomal abnormality.

Do not let all of this information freak you out. Know, each pregnancy carries a 96 to 97 percent chance of developing a perfectly healthy child. Let’s look at some specifics your doctor will check out in your womb to signify a healthy pregnancy.

You can expect to hear, and possibly see your child’s heartbeat. Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming joy you will feel actually witnessing this incredible moment.

Your doctor will also measure the fetus. They will also look for a structure called the yolk sac that will nourish your baby until its placenta fully forms.

If you get this imaging closer to 12 weeks, the doc will measure the placenta and check to placement. They will also measure the amount of amniotic fluid in your uterus, to make sure the baby has ample protection from the outer world.

How Early Can You Get an Ultrasound?

Many women look forward to getting their first peek at baby. Some simply want to see their little one and others need to see it to believe it, as you may not actually feel pregnant just yet.

So, when do you get your first ultrasound?

Prior to six weeks, imaging tests most likely cannot detect your little one, as it is only the size of a pea and growing exponentially at this time. Most doctors like to wait until seven or eight weeks to ensure a clear image of the baby.

External ultrasound typically cannot pick up the image at this time. So, the doctor will usually opt for an internal ultrasound.

External Vs. Internal Ultrasound

With an external ultrasound, the technician will rub a special gel onto your lower belly. They will gently press a transducer onto your abdomen to produce an image on the screen. This type of scan picks up larger structures.

An internal, also called a transvaginal ultrasound, is a little more invasive. This type of procedure requires the technician to insert a probe into the vagina.

Internal imaging allows a better view of the uterus. The doctor may opt for this type of imaging if a structure is blocked or if you are so early that the pregnancy is difficult to see with an external ultrasound.

Though the transvaginal ultrasound may feel a little awkward, neither imaging procedure causes pain. With both, you may feel some pressure, as the sometimes press to move other structures and get a better view.

Gender Reveal?

Your baby’s chromosomal sex is determined at the moment of fertilization when daddy’s sperm claims mommy’s egg. However, the sex organs do not begin to develop until around week seven and will not reach full formation until around week 12.

This means that you will not learn your baby’s gender during this ultrasound. Generally, doctors will wait until about 20 weeks to determine the sex of your little one, because they run into difficulties seeing the sex clearly prior to then.

Will the Technician Tell All?

Ultrasound technicians can point out structures on the screen. However, they cannot read the image to you. Only a doctor can give you a diagnosis.

So, do not worry if your tech remains silent. Some take this to the extreme to avoid any problems.

If your technician suspects a problem, they may ask somebody else to come into the room. Do not panic right away, as this can be something minor or a mistake on their end. Your doctor will give you a full rundown once they receive the scan.


Creating a life starts you on an amazing journey. Congratulations to you and your partner!

Walk into your first ultrasound armed with knowledge so that you know what to expect and feel more excitement than jittery nerves. This first peek at your little love is a special moment that you will treasure forever.

If you still need an obstetrician, we can help. Contact us to set up your first prenatal visit!