How to Read an Ultrasound Picture

Updated February, 2019

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This article will explain everything you need to know about how to read ultrasounds and tell all about reading a sonogram printing. If you want to know about what to look for to tell if you are having a boy on the ultrasound or a girl on the ultrasound picture, we explain it all in this post.

If you are planning on having an ultrasound at 7 weeks, you might be wondering exactly what you will be able to see and how to read an ultrasound for gender. When you have your first ultrasound, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to tell the sex. In this guide to ultrasound reading, you will be given a couple of different methods to use in order to help you understand how to read sonograms and how you will eventually be able to tell the baby’s gender from the ultrasound picture.

Knowing How to Read a Pregnancy Ultrasound

  • First of all, you need to know where your womb is. While this may sound a little elementary, it is a vital first step in the process. Usually, you can easily locate your uterus by looking for the light grey or white line around the outside of the sonogram image. Inside of these lines, you will see a large black area; this is your amniotic fluid.

Tip: One thing to bear in mind at this point is that your womb might not necessarily go right around the whole image. What you see on your image directly correlates with how the ultrasound technician has positioned the probe. It is perfectly normal to only see the lines that represent your womb on a single or even two sides of the ultrasound picture.

  • Second on the list, is locating your baby! Your baby is also going to look either grey or white on the ultrasound image; baby will be situated in the amniotic fluid which as we have already discussed will be the dark area on the image. The details that you will see when reading the ultrasound will vary greatly depending on the stage of your baby’s development and your pregnancy. For instance, if you have an 8-week ultrasound, the fetus is going to be a similar size to a single baked bean. However, at 12-weeks, you should be able to see the head of your baby. If you are trying to read an ultrasound at 20 weeks; the difference will be astonishing. At just 20-weeks, you will be able to see what the baby’s heart, feet, eyes, and spine.
  • If you want to know how to tell baby gender from an ultrasound picture, then at anything between 18-20 weeks, this is possible to do. It is usual that at this time, you will have a sonogram and a full report that will allow the medical staff to identify any potential problems, check on your baby’s development. While in most cases, it is possible to tell the gender of a baby from a 20-week ultrasound, it is not always a possibility. It is important to prepare yourself for this just in case. In order to find out a baby’s gender from an ultrasound, the sonogram technician will look for either three lines which represent the labia or a penis. While it is an accurate way to read an ultrasound for the baby’s sex, it is not 100% accurate. Some visual effect could interfere or create an image on ultrasound, and for this reason, the results are not always assured at this point.

What Type of Ultrasound Scan is Best for Showing Baby’s Sex?

If you want to see more details that a standard sonogram shows, then you might want to consider getting either a 3D or 4D Ultrasound scan. Not all clinics will have these available on demand, but they will be able to help you locate your nearest options should you ask or enquire. We will cover different types of ultrasound scans in a future section of this post, but for now, here is a quick summary of what a 3D and 4D scan will offer.

  • A 3D ultrasound scan will be able to show you some of the features on your baby’s face. It could also show up certain defects, for instance, a cleft lip or palate
  • A 4D ultrasound scan uses the same imaging as with the 3D scan. However, it is possible to get a recorded video of the baby in the womb as it moves around.

If you think you might want to get either a 3D or a 4D ultrasound scan, it is normally best to do so around the 25-30-week mark.

How to Read an Ultrasound Picture?

There are many different reasons why an ultrasound might be requested. The most typical is for the medical staff to be able to view the baby in the womb and to check that everything is proceeding as planned. If you have already had an ultrasound, and you want to know how to read the ultrasound image, there are a number of tips we are going to share with you today, that will help you know how to read pregnancy ultrasound report.

What Do the Numbers Mean on the Ultrasound Picture?

The best thing to do is to ignore any numbers or text that is on your scan. The vast majority of ultrasound testing center and medical facilities will record data that relevant to themselves only. This could include your name, the settings of the machine, the hospital reference codes and such. The data at the top of this image has absolutely nothing to do with your baby or the results of your ultrasound.

If you begin at the very top of the ultrasound picture, this is the point at which the probe was inserted. So, the ultrasound reading you see will demonstrate what the tissues or organ looks like from the side as opposed to the top.

If your ultrasound is being taken of your uterus, then the image you see at the uppermost part of the picture will usually be the tissues above your uterus. As you look down the image or the screen, you will start to see the lining, the inside, and then the back of your uterus.

Ultrasound Reading Colours – Do They Matter?

Yes. Absolutely. You do need to give consideration to the different colors. While the vast majority of ultrasound readings are in white and black, there are subtle differences in the shadings of each of these tones. These differences in color are formed by the varying densities of the various materials that the sound from the ultrasound has to pass through.

As we have already mentioned earlier, the amniotic fluid is going to be dark. Any solid tissues, such as done, will usually look white on an ultrasound image report.

How To Read Baby Ultrasound Image For the Sex

There are a number of determining factors that help you find out the sex of your baby from an ultrasound image. Normally, when you attend for your 18-20-week scan, this is the point in which you will be asked whether or not you wish to know the sex of your baby.

In almost all cases, you will need a qualified ultrasound technician to help you understand exactly what it is that you are looking at. Knowing the results is one thing but understanding what you see on an ultrasound image reading can be incredibly exciting.

Is There a Penis or Not?

Ok, while this might sound incredibly obvious, at 18-20 weeks, this is often the easiest way to know if there is a boy on the ultrasound or not. If the technician locates a penis, then the chances are, this is almost certainly going to be a male. Sometimes, another body part, such as a foot or a finger can look like a penis on the ultrasound reading. For this reason, it is always better to verify what you are seeing with the ultrasound technician who is carrying out your sonogram.

Please Note: Due to the changing position of the fetus, it can sometimes make it difficult to accurately read the sex of a baby from an ultrasound. While most people will get the information they need, it might not always be the case when you go for your ultrasound reading.

If you want a more accurate view or reading, then a 3D or a 4D scan could provide you with a much more detailed picture of your baby at this point.

Ultrasound Imaging Explained

If you have ever looked at an ultrasound image and thought to yourself, I don’t actually have a clue what I am looking at here; then you’re not alone.

While ultrasound technology has been around for a while, it is still quite a mystery to many people when they consider how it actually works. Essentially, it is an imaging tool that looks at various tissues within the body. Unlike an X-Ray, it will not be able to see or penetrate the bones.

Different tissues without our body conduct sound slightly differently; with some tissues reflecting and other tissues absorbing the waves, and the different densities of the materials determining the speed at which the echo returns.

On ultrasound, the tissues are gray, and the fluids are black. The denser the tissues that are present, the whiter they will appear on the ultrasound image. If a bone is scanned, then this should be a bright white color.

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Tips for Reading a Baby Sonogram

In this section, there are five easy steps which most sonographers will follow in order to help them read a baby scan.

Stage 1 – The gestational age of the fetus will be calculated by conducted a measurement of the CRL (Crown Rump Length). This is essentially the length from the top of the babies head all the way down to the bottom of the bum. Usually, the CRL is measured on the ultrasound at 7 weeks all the way through to 13 weeks. The resulting length is then compared with an internal chart in order to accurately map the estimated gestational age.

Stage 2 – The biparietal Diameter is then taken, which is the length between both sides of the head.

Stage 3 – The next step will involve measuring the thighbone and the femur in order to ascertain what the baby’s longitudinal growth is. Usually, the femur should measure at around 1.5cm when the baby is around 13 weeks old.

Stage 4 – Both the height and the weight of the fetus will then be determined by taking an abdominal circumference measurement. In the later stages of a pregnancy, this is actually one of the most important measurements that are taken in order to check the intrauterine growth.

Stage 5 – The fetal measurements are reviewed in order to look for any abnormalities in the structure. A shorter than normal humorous or femur bone, or an absence of the fetal nasal bones is sometimes indicative of Down Syndrome.

Different Types of Ultrasound for Pregnancy

There are five core types of ultrasound imaging tools used for pregnancy-related scanning.

Standard Ultrasound

This is the most typical ultrasound reading tool. A sonographer will use a transducer that is shaped like a wand which is rubbed against the stomach in order to produce 2D images of the baby.

Foetal Echocardiography

This type of ultrasound reading will analyze for any potential issues with the anatomy and/or development of the heart. It is used to diagnose issues or defects on the heart, and where anything suspicious appears on a standard ultrasound, such as an irregular heartbeat, this could be cause for this type of advanced ultrasound reading.

Transvaginal Scan

If pregnancy is considered to be a high-risk or if the mother to have any serious health concerns, then this could result in a transvaginal scan being requested. In such cases, a specific type of transvaginal ultrasound is used that gets inserted into the vagina in order to perform the scan. In many cases, this is done when the fetus is under 10 weeks.

3-D Ultrasound

This uses advanced computer software along with a unique transducer that produces a complete and more detailed picture of the baby. A series of images are taken in slices which are then combined to form a 3D ultrasound image.

Dynamic 3-D Ultrasound (4D Ultrasound)

This is what many people know as a 4D ultrasound scan; it is very similar to the 3D ultrasound proceed. However, parents will get to see their baby moving around, and in some cases, a video of the experience will be provided.

If you still have questions about your ultrasound, please contact us.