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The eight-week mark in most pregnancies is when you get your first ultrasound. An ultrasound is one of the most exciting things for parents-to-be to experience. Using sound waves, the ultrasound takes a picture of your baby in the womb. During your appointment, an ultrasound tech uses a special gel that helps transmit the sound waves through the uterus as he or she rubs a scanner over the gel. As they bounce, ultrasound images begin to appear. There is no pain associated with an ultrasound for mom or baby, at eight-weeks or otherwise. If your eight-week ultrasound is on the horizon you may be wondering what’s in store.

Why Get an Ultrasound at Eight (8) Weeks?

Eight weeks into a pregnancy is the most common time to have a first ultrasound, also called the “dating” scan, as one of the main purposes is to determine gestational age. Gestational age is determined using the baby’s size and offer an accurate estimation of when the baby was conceived.

This first look at the baby helps ensure everything is progressing as it should be and gives parents an opportunity to see how their unborn child is developing. In addition to these common reasons for an eight-week ultrasound, reasoning behind this scan may also include determining or confirming:

  • The cause for a mother experiencing bleeding
  • Whether multiple pregnancies are present
  • The size of the embryo
  • That a heartbeat is present
  • The health of the mother’s fallopian tubes or ovaries
  • There is no ectopic pregnancy or other issues

What Can I Expect at My 8 Week Ultrasound?

Eight-week ultrasounds are conducted in one of two ways—the gel and wand on belly method described above or vaginally through a transvaginal ultrasound. Vaginal ultrasounds make things easier to see, which can come in handy at eight-weeks since the fetus is so new in development. A transvaginal ultrasound is conducted by placing a small wand in the vagina and pressing it against the cervix to get a picture from that angle. As with all ultrasounds, this method is not dangerous and does not cause any harm or pain to the women or fetus. The women may feel some pressure, but most women say they can barely notice it once they see their baby on screen.

As for what you will see in the eight-week ultrasound photos—your baby will begin to look like a tiny human! You’ll be able to see its head, arms and legs and the empty parts of the womb where the fetus is floating around. Your baby’s head will be quite large compared to its body. You may be able to see the eyelids, ears and tip o the nose. It is too early in the pregnancy to determine gender through the ultrasound.

How is My Baby Developing at 8 Weeks?

At your eight-week ultrasound, your baby will have all the basic parts of an adult human. Because of these new characteristics, it is now labeled a fetus instead of an embryo. At this point, the baby already has small legs and arms and little buds where the feet and hands will grow. It’s roughly 18mm long. The internal organs and face are beginning to take shape. There is also a tiny mouth, tooth buds, nostrils and eyes beginning to form. While the baby is already beginning to move a lot, the mother is not able to feel it yet.

It should also present a strong heartbeat, with the heart rate around 140 and 170 beats per minute. If a fetus does not present a strong heartbeat, the doctor will likely schedule a follow up ultrasound to ensure everything is OK and the fetus is viable. If further tests indicate the fetus is not viable there are two options—miscarry naturally as it comes or undergo dilation and curettage (D&C). The split between the two choices is about 50/50.

What are Doctors Looking for at the 8 Week Ultrasound?

Your eight-week ultrasound offers a great deal of information about a pregnancy, including placenta and embryo size, and strength of the heartbeat and umbilical cord. You will likely also be able to tell if you are carrying multiple babies. Overall, the eight-week ultrasound helps confirm that all is well with mom and baby and progressing as it is supposed to.

What Happens Next After this Appointment?

After the eight-week ultrasound, you will likely schedule subsequent ultrasound appointments to ensure the pregnancy is progressing as it should be. In the earlier stages of pregnancy, some mother’s may choose to use the transvaginal ultrasound method since it does not call for a full bladder in order to work properly. Belly ultrasounds often rely on a woman having a full bladder to “tilt” the uterus up a bit and get a better picture. As the pregnancy progresses, the less likely it is to need a full bladder to get a sufficient belly ultrasound photo.