What to expect at the first scan

When carrying your first child, you may wonder what to expect during your first ultrasound. Although it is an exciting time, it may also seem a little intimidating for first time mothers and their partners. The ultrasound exam is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to scan a woman’s abdomen, producing a sonogram (picture) of the baby onto a screen. An ultrasound is a fairly simple and safe procedure involving no needles or radiation. The procedure is typically not uncomfortable or painful in any way, and tends to be a very touching experience for new mothers.

You may wonder when the right time is to have an ultrasound performed. The timing of your first ultrasound will be determined by your practitioner. In some cases, an ultrasound is recommended between six and nine weeks into the pregnancy. Some practitioners will only do an ultrasound during the first trimester if it is considered a high risk pregnancy or if a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy is suspected. This is referred to as an early ultrasound and typically is only recommended if there is some type of risk involved. Many times, the early ultrasound is done vaginally rather than on the abdomen to get a clearer look at the baby earlier in the pregnancy.

In most cases, the first ultrasound will take place between ten and thirteen weeks into the pregnancy. At this time, the technician will rub gel on your abdomen and move a small hand-held device (transducer) gently over the tummy to produce a picture of the baby on the screen. During the ultrasound, an estimated due date will be given as well as hearing the heartbeat of the baby. The due date is more precisely established through the ultrasound than counting back to your last monthly menstrual cycle by measuring the baby’s length from its head to its bottom (crown rump length or CRL). The first ultrasound should also reveal if the mother is carrying one baby or multiples. 

All in all, the first ultrasound should be a delightful experience for new mothers and their partner. This is typically when the pregnancy begins to feel real for parents as they get the chance to view the baby and hear the heartbeat for the first time. It is during a later ultrasound (typically between eighteen and twenty weeks into the pregnancy) that the baby’s gender may be able to be revealed. There are several different types of ultrasounds that can be performed during various stages of pregnancy. Your practitioner should inform you of your options and the timeframes in which they are performed.

Pregnancy scans

This post was written for My Family Fever by Glenn Josephik.  Glenn is an account representative and the marketing coordinator at MedCorp LLC, the industry leader and premier business source for used portable ultrasound systems. You can follow Glenn Josephik here.



  1. Wendy Tolhurst
    December 6, 2014 / 9:12 pm

    Long time since I had my first scan. I had early scans with most of my children for various reasons – worst time was when I had a scan at 5/6 weeks and everything seemed ok. Then went for a routine scan at 10/11 weeks and I went alone – sensed something was wrong fairly quickly but as soon as they told me they needed to do a vaginal scan I knew things weren’t good. Turned out I had a missed miscarriage. I have never felt so alone – I went in pregnant and came out needing a small op. The lesson I learned from that was, if at all possible, never go to a scan alone.

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