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Assessing the Baby-continued

Ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the baby and its internal structures. The transducer (the instrument placed on the mother's abdomen) both emits and retrieves sound waves. By analyzing the changes that occur in the returning sound waves, a computerized reconstruction of the baby's anatomy can be created.

Ultrasound does not use radiation. The best studies to date indicate that ultrasound has no negative effects on either mother or baby. Nonetheless, ultrasound should be reserved only for answering medical questions, not for determining the baby's sex, or obtaining a picture for the new baby album. Although an ultrasound test can yield valuable information about individual babies, there is no evidence that routine ultrasound screening promotes better outcomes.

Ultrasound is completely painless, and actually lots of fun. If you're going to have an ultrasound test, you may want to bring Dad along as well. It's quite a thrill to see an image of your baby (even if it appears a bit skeletal), to watch the baby move, and possibly to see it suck its thumb.