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The Pregnancy Ultrasounds – The Ultimate Pregnancy Tests

To find out whether or not you’re pregnant, most women take a urine test. When a woman is pregnant, her body produces a specific hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. Pregnancy tests look for the presence of this hormone in the urine to confirm a pregnancy.

However, there are some situations that can results in an inaccurate test. For example, if a woman has been taking fertility treatments that use hCG, the test could be picking up residual amounts from the treatments and not from an actual pregnancy. Or, if you recently miscarried, your body could still harbor residual amounts of hCG which cause a positive reading, even though you aren’t pregnant. You can also be pregnant, but not yet producing enough hCG to measure on a home test, leading to a false negative result.

In the presence of inconclusive urine pregnancy testing, the ultimate pregnancy test is an ultrasound. An ultrasound essentially bounces sound waves off an object and uses the returning waves to develop a computer image. If you are pregnant, the sound waves bounce off the developing baby in your uterus, enabling the doctor to confirm your pregnancy.

If your doctor is looking for pregnancy, she may use a transvaginal ultrasound probe. This wand-shaped probe is typically placed inside a condom and then inserted into the vagina. This can be very accurate in early pregnancy or in the case of an obese mother – both situations where traditional ultrasound scans may fail to detect the pregnancy.

On the other hand, your doctor may choose to use an abdominal probe. This probe has a wider, fan-shaped end, and is used outside of the body, which requires the use of a conductive gel medium that allows the probe to move smoothly across the skin and provide accurate readings. An ultrasound generally causes no sensation other than the movement of the transducer across the skin. The gel is sometimes wet and sticky, but is easily wiped away after testing.

Your doctor will first look at your ovaries. If you have ovulated, the follicle from which your egg emerged will usually be visible. This follicle is called the corpus luteum and produces the hormones that sustain your pregnancy until the placenta is developed and can take over. If you are pregnant, that follicle is typically larger. Your doctor will also look at your uterus to see if an embryo is present. A pregnancy can usually be detected by ultrasound at four and a half or five and a half weeks gestation.

If you are pregnant but experiencing symptoms such as pain in your pelvis or abdomen, your doctor may also examine your fallopian tubes to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are pregnancies that occur outside the uterus – they are most commonly located in the fallopian tubes and are sometimes called tubal pregnancies. These pregnancies can be life threatening and must be treated as quickly as possible.

In addition, if you have had spotting or bleeding early during your pregnancy, your doctor may use an ultrasound to confirm that you are still carrying a viable pregnancy. Testing for hCG in this case wouldn’t be helpful, as it takes several weeks for your hormone levels to return to normal after you’ve been pregnant.

If you are pregnant, your doctor will use an ultrasound to determine your baby's gestational age. This is important because several milestones of the baby's health and development will be measured by his or her gestational age.

Perhaps the ultimate use of ultrasound as pregnancy test is that it allows you to see your baby and hear his or her heartbeat. There’s nothing in the world that confirms pregnancy quite as elegantly as that experience.

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