Twin Ultrasound - Confirming It's Twins

Most pregnant women can expect to have at least one or two ultrasounds (also known as a sonogram or scan) during their pregnancy.

When you're pregnant with twins or more, you will likely have several more so your doctor can monitor your babies more closely. It's also one of the "perks" or comforts of a twin or multiple pregnancy because you get to see your babies more often and receive reassurance that they are growing and healthy.

If your pregnancy is normal and progressing without any complications, most doctors will schedule your first ultrasound midway through your pregnancy at around 18 to 22 weeks. This is often how mothers of twins find out that they are carrying more than one. (That's how I found out!)

The number and timing of your ultrasounds will vary, depending on your doctor or health care provider. For instance, if your doctor has ultrasound equipment located in his office, you may have an ultrasound done earlier to confirm a uterine (as opposed to ectopic or tubular) pregnancy. Most doctors though will confirm your pregnancy with the use of a hand-held Doppler heartbeat monitor.

Even if your doctor doesn't have the equipment, you may have an early ultrasound if you choose to have extra screening done for possible birth defects. Older women, women with a history of high-risk pregnancies and women whose family history may predispose them to genetic abnormalities may opt to have extra screening done.

What is an ultrasound?

This exam is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to scan a woman's abdomen and pelvic cavity, creating a picture (sonogram) of the baby and placenta.

It is usually performed by an ultrasound technician who places a gel on your abdomen to act as a conductor for the sound waves, and a wand (called a transducer) is rubbed across your belly. The sound waves bounce off bones and tissue (your baby), which then create images of the fetus on the monitor.

For a twin pregnancy, the technician will often name your babies Twin A and Twin B to keep track of the measurements and information for each baby.

Types of ultrasounds

There are seven basic types of ultrasounds, although the same basic process is used to conduct them. They are:

Transvaginal Ultrasound: This is the only ultrasound that is not performed externally on the abdomen. A transducer wand is inserted in the vagina to generate sonogram images. This method is most often used in the early stages of pregnancy (less than 12 weeks) because it is easier to detect the pregnancy and look more closely at the uterus.

Standard Ultrasound: This is the traditional ultrasound most women will experience where a transducer is used on the abdomen to produce 2-D images of the fetus.

Advanced Ultrasound: Similar to the standard ultrasound, this exam targets a suspected problem and uses more sophisticated equipment.

Doppler Ultrasound: This procedure measures slight changes in the frequency of the ultrasound waves as they bound off of moving objects, such as blood cells.

3-D Ultrasound: This procedure uses specially designed probes and software to generate 3-D images of the fetus.

4-D or Dynamic 3-D Ultrasound: This procedure uses specially designed scanners to look at the face and movements of the baby prior to delivery.

Fetal Echocardiography: This procedure uses ultrasound waves to assess the baby's heart anatomy and function. Your health care provider would only order this scan in a case where there is suspicion of congenital heart defects.

What are the risks associated with an ultrasound?

The ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure and considered very low risk. You may experience a little discomfort at some exams if the technician needs to press down hard on your abdomen to see an image better.

For earlier exams, you are often asked to drink about a liter of water prior to the exam so you might be uncomfortable if you have to wait to go the bathroom. (Tip: If you end up with a long wait, the nurses usually will let you go to the bathroom once for some relief. In my experience, this didn't affect the exam. Don't torture yourself!)

In general, medical guidelines caution against necessary exposure to ultrasound so your practitioner will typically schedule only what he or she feels is medically necessary during your pregnancy. If you have any questions or concerns, speak to your health care provider.

Your feelings: Finding out it's twins

Video: 4-D Twin Ultrasound