Congratulations on your pregnancy and welcome to the world of pregnancy ultrasounds.
From now until about half way through your pregnancy you are likely to have at least two ultrasounds. These will help you and your maternity care provider to know more about your baby’s growth and development.
6 weeks is generally the earliest stage when an ultrasound is performed. It isn’t common practice to have one this early, but you may have one ordered if there are any concerns.
If your healthcare professional recommends a scan before you're 6 weeks pregnant it may be to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo attaches itself outside of the uterus. If you are experiencing severe pain on one side of your abdomen or shoulder tip pain, tell your doctor.
Feeling apprehensive about going to an ultrasound so early on in your pregnancy is normal. Try to stay calm and prepare yourself for what may happen. It might be a good idea for your partner or a close family member to go along with you for extra support.
Reasons for a 6-Week Ultrasound
6-week ultrasounds are fairly uncommon and not done routinely. Your chosen maternity care provider may recommend you have one at 6 weeks if they suspect that your pregnancy is not progressing as it should be.
Reasons for a 6-Week Ultrasound
- Previous miscarriage.
- If you have had fertility treatment.
To help find out the reason for any pain or vaginal bleeding.
- If you are unsure how far along you are in your pregnancy.
At 6 weeks, it can be difficult to see in much detail how the baby is developing. But the size of the baby and the sac it is growing in will give important information about how your little baby is growing. It may even be possible to see your baby’s heartbeat.
The sonographer will also be able to see where your baby has embedded in your uterus and that you don’t have an ectopic pregnancy. If there are concerns, a follow up ultrasound in the next few weeks will be able to give you more information. Following up with another ultrasound during week 10 or week 12 of your pregnancy will be able to give you even more detail.
What to expect during your 6-week ultrasound?
In the earliest weeks of pregnancy, ultrasounds are usually done vaginally, not via the mother’s abdomen. This is because the uterus is still very small and is still located deep within the pelvis. A vaginal ultrasound will allow the sound waves to get closer to your uterus and produce a clearer image.
A 6-week ultrasound can also help to find the cause for any early pregnancy pain or bleeding.
Your baby at 6 weeks
At 6 weeks, your baby should measure approximately five to nine mms long or be about the same size as a lentil.
6 weeks into your pregnancy is also the earliest time you might be able to see a foetal heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. It will be very faint at this stage and depending on the ultrasound equipment being used you might not be able to see it at all. If it can be seen it should be beating from between 90-110 beats per minute.
Don’t be alarmed if all you see on the ultrasound screen is a small, empty circle. It’s still very early days and it’s common for only a yolk sac to be visible.
Right now, your baby may look like a little tadpole. Although it is still tiny, all of its important internal organs are developing. This development will be using a lot of your energy so make sure you rest. And it’s really important to speak with your maternity care provider about taking folic acid supplements too.
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Last Published* August, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.