The technician will need to access your whole belly. Wear a loose-fitting top that can be easily moved up and pants with enough give to be pulled down a bit. Also, do not wear a dress or you'll be in your skivvies for the exam.
The wand used to administer the ultrasound is slathered with a gooey gel that allows the wand to easily glide over your skin. Unless they have a special warmer on hand, get ready for a quick shock — the gel is cold. It will remain on your belly throughout the ultrasound. But don't worry, the ultrasound tech will likely clean off as much as possible after the exam or at least give you the paper towels to do so.
The ultrasound technician will need to concentrate on finding the right images and measurements for the doctor. (They actually have specific shots they need to capture and annotate.) And depending on the tech, that could result in a lot of silence. "It was nerve-wracking at first, while the technician was just measuring and not speaking. We were relieved when she told us everything was perfect. We were not uncomfortable at all, just very excited to see our baby growing," said Jacqueline Alvarado of Avocado PR.
So, don't worry. Silence doesn't signal something bad. Chances are, the tech is just concentrating.
While you do need to let the technician concentrate on doing her job, not knowing what's happening can be frustrating. Don't be afraid to ask questions about what you are seeing (or if you can't see). "For one of my ultrasounds in my first pregnancy, the ultrasound technician turned the screen away for the entire 30-minute process, did not talk to me and only printed out a picture at the end. I was too shy to say, 'Can I see?' Knowing what I do now, I would have no problem doing that. Speak up, talk to your technician," said Brenda Mulligan, mother of two.
There won't be a second chance to find out everything you want to know about what you are seeing. If you don't ask now, you probably won't have a chance to ask later since techs see many patients every day and won't be able to answer your questions. Feeling shy? Enlist your partner or whomever goes with you to advocate on your behalf.
Note: Only a physician can diagnose the content of the ultrasound, and at many practices, he or she is the only one who is allowed to report your baby's sex.
Even if you've had an ultrasound before, you should know that every ultrasound is different. A variety of factors can influence the experience making it better or worse.
"Your experience can be completely different depending on where the ultrasound takes place (an imaging department vs. at a doctor's visit) and unfortunately, what kind of mood your ultrasound technician is in that day — how much they want to share with you on what they are seeing," said Mulligan.
Just relax. You will be reclining on a padded table or exam chair, the lights will be dimmed and it will be quiet. It's a perfect environment for meeting your baby for the first time.
Nancy J. Price, a four-time pregnancy champion and eight-time ultrasound veteran, also contributed to this story.
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