Ultrasounds are one of the most exciting parts of a pregnancy—a first chance to see your unborn child. An ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure, performed vaginally or abdominally, that causes no pain to mom or baby. There is no standard timeline or number of ultrasounds recommended, so your ultrasound schedule will be determined by your specific needs and vision for your pregnancy. Other factors that may influence this schedule include:
- Health of your pregnancy
- Progression of your pregnancy
- Personal preferences
- Your doctor or healthcare provider
- Your health insurance coverage
- Your birth plan
- Your medical history
Why Get an Ultrasound at Nine Weeks?
Most women get their first ultrasound around eight weeks. If you did not get an ultrasound at eight weeks or are unsure when you first became pregnant, a nine-week ultrasound may be performed. This first ultrasound comes with the main purpose of determining the age of gestation (when you became pregnant), which will determine your due date. Through the ultrasound photos, a doctor can measure the fetus and determine gestational age to a very accurate estimation. This scan is especially important for women who are unsure when their last period was and therefore unsure of the exact conception timeline.
Having an accurate gestational age is important as it determines other subsequent tests and milestones of your pregnancy. For example, healthcare professional suggests a Nuchal Translucency (NT) scan, which test for Down syndrome, to happen sometime between 11 and 13 weeks. If gestational age is unknown, it makes it difficult to get accurate NT scan results.
Another reason you may have a nine-week ultrasound is if you have a history of miscarriage or experience bleeding during the early weeks of your pregnancy. The ultrasound helps determine if the pregnancy is progressing as it should be.
What Can I Expect at My Nine (9) Week Ultrasound?
Your first ultrasound is likely to be emotional—seeing your baby for the first time is exciting! Bring along your partner or a close friend or family member to be by your side during this time.
The nine-week ultrasound may be conducted vaginally or through the abdomen—either of which is likely covered by your healthcare provider if the scan was recommended by your doctor. Both procedures are minimally invasive and painless for mom and baby.
During a vaginal ultrasound an ultrasound tech inserts a wand through the vagina. It is then pressed against the cervix to get a clear image. While you will not experience any pain, you may feel slight pressure from the wand. Abdomen ultrasounds are what most think of when they hear an ultrasound. Conductive gel is rubbed on the mother’s belly then the ultrasound tech glides a wand across the abdomen to produce the ultrasound images. In both cases, sound waves are sent through the uterus and bounce back with an image of the fetus.
What Will I See at a 9 Week Ultrasound?
At the nine-week ultrasound you will be able to see a body, limbs and head. The head will be large in relation to the body. You’ll also be able to hear a heartbeat and may see the beginning of fingers and toes.
At this stage of your pregnancy, your baby is about 2.5 centimeters long (about the size of a green olive) and weighs under 2 grams. It is also preparing for a stage of rapid growth as it enters its third month of development.
What are Doctors Looking For at a 9 Week Ultrasound?
At the nine-week ultrasound doctors are looking for gestational age as signs of viability of the pregnancy. Miscarriage is very common in the first trimester and a weak heartbeat, slow growth or vaginal bleeding can indicate a high probability of a miscarriage happening. If any of these indicators are strong, your doctor will speak with you about your options.
The doctor will also be able to see the condition of the uterus as well as the development of the baby’s organs. He or she will also look at the baby’s mobility. Though a healthy fetus will already be moving around a lot, the mother will not feel it yet.
All in all, the doctor is looking for indicators of a healthy and strong pregnancy, hoping to catch any issues early so they can be addressed.
What Happens Next after the 9 Week Appointment?
Following your first ultrasound, you’ll speak to your doctor about subsequent ultrasounds to continue monitoring the progress of the pregnancy. Multiple ultrasounds will likely be conducted, including one that can determine the sex of the baby. Early stage ultrasounds may be done vaginally or via the abdomen depending on your preference. One advantage of having early ultrasounds done vaginally is that you do not need a full bladder to increase the quality of the images. With abdominal ultrasounds, a full bladder helps lift up the uterus for better imaging.
For more resources on fertility, visit our Fertility Resources page.