Understanding Ultrasounds


As a true birth center, we provide mothers with the same level of prenatal care that you’ll find at a doctor’s office, in a comfortable, supportive, midwife-led environment. That means that when you come in for checkups, we run all of the important tests, labs and screenings pregnant women need, including ultrasounds! We have in-house ultrasound machines at each Austin Area Birthing Center location and, thanks to our great relationship with Dr. Sina Haeri of North Austin Maternal Fetal Medicine, we have access to great ultrasound techs to conduct and interpret your ultrasound! This is uncommon in the birth center world, but we believe in providing our patients with the highest level of care possible.

You’ve probably already had an ultrasound, but if not, or if you just want to know more about the process, then read on!

What is an ultrasound?

An ultrasound, also called a sonogram, is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to generate an image of the inside of your body. Technically, the procedure is called an ultrasonography procedure, ultrasound refers to the high frequency sound waves and the sonogram is the actual image that the waves generate, but most people just use ultrasound and sonogram interchangeably to refer to the procedure.

What is an ultrasound procedure like?

There are two types of ultrasound for pregnant women – transvaginal ultrasounds and the anatomy scan ultrasound that you see in movies and on TV all the time.  

Both types of ultrasounds are painless and relatively short. Transvaginal ultrasounds are conducted with a transducer probe that is inserted into the vagina. This is the kind of sonogram you’ll get during the early stages of pregnancy.

Once your baby has grown a bit more, when you come in for an ultrasound, the technician or doctor will rub some ultrasound gel on your tummy so that the machine can get a good reading. The person running your ultrasound will show you the scan and point out interesting things to you. Ultrasounds are hard to interpret to the untrained eye, but your doctor or tech will know exactly what’s going on. Once the scan is done, all you need to do is clean off the gel and you’re done!

When do I get an ultrasound?

Typically, pregnant women get their first ultrasound in the first trimester, once they determine that they are pregnant – around 6 to 8 weeks along. This is a transvaginal ultrasound, and you may be asked to come in with a full bladder, as the liquid in your bladder helps the soundwaves of the ultrasound machine get a clearer picture. This first ultrasound helps get all of the important stuff out of the way – you’ll get a more accurate idea of the date of conception so you can start charting milestones, you’ll know if you’re having more than one baby and the doctor or tech will be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat!

During your second trimester (around 20 weeks) you’ll get a comprehensive anatomy scan. This is the ultrasound as you probably imagine it – lying on a table with goop on your belly. At this point in your pregnancy, the ultrasound will reveal a detailed image of your baby! The person running the scan will check every part of your baby to make sure that development is on track. This is also the scan where you can find out the sex of your baby if you so choose!

If you haven’t run into any complications in your pregnancy, you probably won’t have any more ultrasounds before the baby is born!

At Austin Area Birthing Center, we aim to give moms the best care and community possible before, during and after pregnancy. By offering ultrasounds to our mothers, we’re able to make sure everything is healthy and help them see and bond with their baby before he or she arrives!