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Prenatal Testing Basics


Updated July 02, 2014

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Ultrasound Screening for Anatomy
Black doctor giving pregnant patient ultrasound
Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

Screens for: fetal anatomy and problems with the baby or pregnancy. An example might be gastroschisis (abdominal wall opening), a placental issue like a placenta previa, spina bifida or other missing or defective anatomical problems with a baby.

Who does it: Ultrasounds should be done by trained and certified ultrasonographers or physicians.

How it is done: Ultrasounds are done by having mom drink enough water to fill her bladder, providing a better image for the screener. A gel is applied to help conduct the sound waves from the transducer placed on your abdomen. The sound waves are returned to the machine and an image is displayed on the screen for the practitioner to interpret.

When is it done: A fetal anatomy screen, sometimes called an anomaly screen, is usually best performed between 18-20 weeks of gestation. There are other times that work best for specific scans of a particular part of the baby's anatomy.

Accuracy: Depends on the age of gestation, what was found, the machine used and the person performing and reading the scan. Be sure to ask your doctor or midwife for specific if something is found or if you are concerned.

Risk to mom: It can be uncomfortable to have a full bladder and to lay back. Some mothers also report anxiety about the findings.

Risk to pregnancy/baby: None reported at this time.

Additional resources:


Photo © ADAM

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