Early Ultrasound

Early pregnancy ultrasound

Some reasons why an early ultrasound may be requested are:

  • Dating, eg uncertain last period or irregular menstrual cycle
  • Bleeding and/or pain
  • Risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • Excessive nausea
  • Previous miscarriage
  • High-risk pregnancy where dating has particular importance

In some cases, a private obstetrician with ultrasound access may perform this early scan in place of referral.  

The early ultrasound may:

  • Confirm that the embryo is alive and in the right location.
  • Calculate the gestation and the estimated due date.
  • Give some idea of whether the pregnancy is progressing normally.
  • Diagnose twins or higher order multiple pregnancy.
  • Diagnose ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).
  • Check the pelvis for masses such as fibroids or cysts.

When is the early ultrasound performed?

This will depend on the reason.  Patients with bleeding will be seen urgently.  However if the reason for the scan is to do with the past history, eg previous miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, aim to wait until 7 or 8 weeks.  Although an anxious woman will be tempted to come as early as possible, remember that the information will be more reliable at the slightly later stages, and you also will see a lot more.   For example, a heartbeat seen at 6 weeks will not count as much to predict you are not going to miscarry, as one seen at 7 or 8 weeks.

How is the early ultrasound performed?

Often all the information is clear by ultrasound through the woman’s abdomen.  If not, it may be optimal to perform a transvaginal ultrasound. A narrow, gel covered probe is gently introduced into the vagina after the woman has emptied her bladder.  It goes no further inside you than the speculum does when you have a Pap smear.  Most patients experience no pain or only very mild discomfort.  The vaginal ultrasound can be performed when there is bleeding, and may be most important when this occurs.

Early Ultrasound Images

More Pregnancy Ultrasounds