Pregnancy is an amazing period, when the would-be parents experience a myriad of emotions, from bliss to exhilaration, anticipation and apprehension. The emotions run even higher for those who conceive through IVF as the stakes are bigger for such couples. There would be nothing much to worry if the pregnancy progresses in a normal manner, but symptoms like abdominal cramps and bleeding can aggravate the stress for the couple as well as the doctor.

At the same time, they would also need to know about the fetal growth and health from time to time. This is where ultrasound scans come in, and they are done more than once during the entire pregnancy. The patients are recommended to take them for the first time during early pregnancy, sometime around 7 to 8 weeks into the gestation.

When a couple takes their first scan, they would be very curious to know about the reports; but the sonographer would rather leave discussion of the results to the couple’s doctor. Though a good doctor would clarify all their doubts related to the scans, it is vital for the patients to be able to understand and interpret the reports.

How soon to have the first ultrasound scan in pregnancy?

Ideally, a woman is recommended her first pregnancy scan at around the eighth week of pregnancy. The reason is that prior to this period, the fetal heartbeat is not detectable and the gestational sac may be too tiny to be visible in the scan.

This could actually mean nothing but the couple would be worried unnecessarily till the next scheduled scans come up with normal results. At around 8 to 9 weeks of the pregnancy, the heartbeat can be detected and the would-be parents can actually carry their first baby picture home.

What to expect during the first ultrasound scan?

Since the gestational sac is quite small in size at the time of the first scan, the woman is asked to have it done with full bladder. She is encouraged to drink lots of water before the scan so that the bladder may get distended and good quality image is returned during the ultrasound scan. When the woman goes for the first scan, there will probably be countless questions in her mind regarding the well being and growth of her baby.

She may also want to know if there are any abnormalities in the fetus or its placement inside the uterus. Complications such as multiple pregnancies and ectopic pregnancy can also be detected in early scans and in case of doubts; further testing may be referred for the patient. The sex of the baby cannot be determined in these early reports because its sex organs do not develop at this stage.

Understanding Early Pregnancy Scans

Ultrasound scans have become a routine pregnancy test today, whether the pregnancy is natural or assisted. Besides being a reassurance for the couple, these scans have several advantages of their own. Interpreting the results of the scans is not such an easy job because the fetus transcends the stages of development at a very rapid pace, which can be better understood only by a qualified sonographer or a doctor.

Primarily, the purpose of early ultrasound scans is to make sure that the pregnancy has actually materialized or not, with fetal heartbeat being seen as the key parameter for the same. Similarly, the sonographer will also check out whether there is a multiple pregnancy or something amiss like an ectopic one. Another thing which is determined in the early pregnancy scans is the expected due date for the pregnancy, which is calculated by making a comparison between the date of last menstrual period (LMP) and the fetal size (the distance between the baby’s crown or top of the head and its rump or bottom of the body).

Is there something to be concerned about if early scans do not show the baby or its heartbeat?

In some women, the early ultrasound scans may not turn up with very encouraging results as the pregnancy sac may not be visible or the heartbeat cannot be detected, or both. In such a situation, the patient may be asked to wait for a few days and take up the scan once again, throwing them in  a vortex of doubt till things take a turn for better in the second attempt.

It is but natural for the couple to be concerned if something like this happens but the fact is that it might actually be too early for the scan to be visible or heartbeat to be detected. The problem could even lie in the ultrasound machine being faulty and things may look up when a subsequent scan is conducted. The biological variability factor may also come into play as every pregnancy and every fetus is unique and timing is nothing that the couple can do much about.

It can be rightly said that a blank ultrasound scan at the early stages can be a cause of alarm for the couple, but this could only be the beginning of the joyful days ahead. Therefore, it is better for them to be positive and enjoy the special moments rather than worry about anything that might not be wrong at all.

Gaudium IVF is a renowned IVF Centre in Delhi where patients not only get comprehensive treatment for diverse fertility related issues but also get expert guidance and counselling for all pregnancy-related queries and doubts. Contact for a free second opinion by the expert fertility specialist, Dr Manika Khanna.