Some of the excitement of getting an ultrasound at eight weeks pregnant is that you’ll be able to see the transformation from embryo to fetus! At this time, your growing baby has now passed this threshold, and is likely developing strongly. Your doctor may choose to perform an ultrasound at this time — the imaging process that uses ultrasound waves to produce an image — to check in on your baby’s health. You’ll be able to get a glimpse of the tiny fetus and often are able to take home a sonogram — the printed image of the doctor’s view during the ultrasound.
Why doctors want to see a sonogram at eight weeks
While many pregnant women receive their first ultrasound at eight weeks of gestation or later, you may have recently had one at six weeks. In fact, for many people who have difficulties with conceiving, multiple ultrasounds are common, especially in situations where in vitro fertilization (IVF) was used to get pregnant, or if there is a history of miscarriage. Ultrasounds are the best tool at identifying potential issues at this stage of pregnancy, as well as confirming that the fetus is developing as it should. At the eight-week ultrasound, doctors will be looking for these things on the sonogram:
Fetus development: If your doctor or an ultrasound specialist was unable to detect a heartbeat at a previous ultrasound, they will definitely be looking to verify this time that your pregnancy is viable. By week eight, a heartbeat should be visible (and audible) in most ultrasounds. The eight-week sonogram should also show the four chambers of the heart, and during the ultrasound, your healthcare provider will be looking for a heartbeat around 160 beats per minute.
Multiple pregnancies: Especially in cases of IVF or assisted reproduction procedures, your fertility specialist will be looking at the number of fetuses in the womb. If more than one fetus is present, expect a few extra minutes of ultrasound time as your doctor examines both fetuses for developmental milestones.
Proper fetal placement: If you did not have a six-week ultrasound, the eight-week ultrasound is important for determining that you have a pregnancy that is developing where it should. Sometimes, an embryo will develop in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or another place outside of the uterus, creating an ectopic pregnancy. Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies are not viable, and can cause dangerous health situations for pregnant women.
Any other health issues: During this time, the ultrasound specialist will be looking not only at the fetus, but also at your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. Sonograms of your reproductive system will be sent to your doctor for observation so that they can ensure you are healthy. In situations where an issue is identified, your doctor or fertility specialist will be able to preemptively determine the best course of action so that you can have a successful and healthy pregnancy.
Understanding the sonogram and what you’re seeing
If you had the opportunity to view your developing baby at a six-week ultrasound, you may see that there have been drastic changes in such a short amount of time! What was previously an embryo has developed into a fetus, and is called such because it has arms, legs, and the beginning stages of hands and feet. Measuring between a half-inch and one inch long, the fetus has nearly doubled in size in just two weeks — a staggering feat when considering that in the early stages, your baby is growing almost a millimeter per day.
During the ultrasound, you may be able to see that your baby is moving around, and that wiggling can make it tricky for your doctor or ultrasound technician to get good measurements. Some doctor’s offices and fertility clinics are able to provide printed sonograms along with actual video from the ultrasound that you can re-watch at home or share with family and friends.
If you’re hoping for a little boy or girl, unfortunately, it’s a bit too early to determine the sex of your child. While the fetus’ genitalia is beginning to form, it’s still unlikely that you’ll be able to determine if a boy or girl is on the way. With about 12 more weeks of waiting and anticipation, you’ll be able to find out (if you want to) your baby’s sex at the 20-week ultrasound.
What happens if you don’t see anything on your eight-week sonogram
By eight weeks pregnant, a fetus should be visible on a sonogram. If your ultrasound or sonogram shows no fetus, or a fetus that has not developed properly, your doctor or fertility specialist will be able to counsel you on what happens next. In some cases, an early miscarriage may have happened — according to the March of Dimes, approximately 15 to 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Other times, further examination for an ectopic pregnancy is necessary.