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8 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound: What to Know Before Your Appointment

8 weeks pregnant ultrasound image

Think you might be 8 weeks pregnant? Here’s what you need to know about this early pregnancy ultrasound.

If you’ve had a positive pregnancy test, you may be dealing with a range of emotions in addition to some potential physical pregnancy symptoms. This early along in your pregnancy journey, it’s normal to feel apprehensive about all the unknowns ahead, especially when it comes to medical scans like ultrasounds.

Ultrasounds are an important part of your pregnancy journey because they help you and your practitioner monitor your baby’s health and development. Around the 8-week mark, your family doctor may order an ultrasound to confirm dating and pregnancy viability. Dating is an important anchor to get right early on as all other tests and scans in your pregnancy are dependent on this date.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Why you may get an ultrasound at 8 weeks
  • What to expect at your appointment and questions to ask
  • The details you’ll be able to see on the ultrasound monitor
  • How to understand and share those amazing first ultrasound images

8 Reasons to get an ultrasound at 8 weeks pregnant

This prenatal ultrasound is often the first chance you and your healthcare practitioner will have to visually confirm your pregnancy. The results of this early pregnancy ultrasound give you and your doctor the most accurate estimated due date to refer to going forward. Your practitioner will likely order an ultrasound around the 8-week mark to:

  1. Determine an accurate gestational age so you get an estimate of your due date
  2. Measure the size of your embryo (i.e., your growing baby) using crown-rump length. This helps narrow down your due date.
  3. Check whether you have more than one embryo or multiple pregnancies, especially if twins or triplets run in the family
  4. Ensure your pregnancy is intrauterine, meaning it’s implanted in your uterus
  5. Scan for sources of vaginal bleeding, if you have experienced any of this
  6. Screen for abnormal conditions such as an ectopic or molar pregnancy
  7. Examine your cervix, ovaries and uterus
  8. Detect the embryo’s heartbeat for the first time

Is 8 weeks too early for an ultrasound?

On the contrary, 8 weeks is often the first point at which your healthcare professional will order an ultrasound—so they can confirm dating and that your pregnancy is viable. Having an ultrasound at 8 weeks pregnant will give you and your practitioner a baseline date from which to measure your progress.

What to expect at your 8 weeks pregnant ultrasound appointment

During your ultrasound appointment, a trained technician called a sonographer will use a hand-held device called a transducer to create and capture sound waves. Too high pitched for human ears to hear, those sound waves travel through your body and bounce off different structures in different ways. The ultrasound machine detects and uses these signals to create an image of the position and shape of your growing pregnancy.

Ultrasounds are very safe and should be performed by trained technicians. The sound waves are painless and don’t produce ionizing radiation (like X-rays or CT scans). Both Health Canada and the U.S. Food & Drug Association consider ultrasounds low-risk procedures.

Is an 8 week scan internal or external?

There are two main types of pregnancy ultrasound. With a transabdominal ultrasound, the sonographer will squeeze gel onto your belly and then run the transducer over the surface of your skin. In a transvaginal ultrasound, the lubricated wand is inserted into your vagina, which is closer to your uterus and ovaries and allows for a closer look at your pregnancy.

At 8 weeks, you’ll have both a transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasound. In the early stages of pregnancy, the embryo is so small that the transducer successfully captures more details inside the vaginal canal than it can outside the abdomen.

How to prepare for your appointment

Ultrasounds aren’t complicated scans, but there are some things you can do to help prepare, such as:

  • Bring a copy of your ultrasound requisition. This documentation communicates exactly which type of exam you require and makes the check-in process easier (in case your practitioner hasn’t sent your requisition in advance to the clinic or hospital).
  • Arrive with a full bladder. Sound travels well through liquid so having a full bladder will help the sonographer get the best images on the transabdominal part of the test.
  • Choose comfortable, loose clothing. Make sure what you wear is easy to get in and out of.
  • Have someone with you. Check in advance if the hospital or imaging clinic will allow a support person with you in the exam room.

What can you see on an ultrasound at 8 weeks pregnant?

At your 8 weeks ultrasound, you and your healthcare team will gain valuable information about how your pregnancy is progressing. Your embryo will be roughly the size of a bean, around 1.5-2.5 cm or 0.5-1 inch long. During your ultrasound you may be able to see the following:

  • Gestational sac: a black circle-like shape around the embryo, the fluid-filled gestational sac is often the first visible sign of pregnancy.
  • Yolk sac: a smaller bubble that provides the embryo with nutrients, the yolk sac is absorbed by the end of the first trimester.
  • Embryo: you should be able to make out the shape of its small body distinct from its comparatively large head.
  • Amniotic sac: full of fluid with thin walls, the amniotic sac protects the embryo while allowing for movement. It may be visible as a separate thin wall until it fuses to the outer thick white wall around 14 weeks.
  • Umbilicord cord: carries oxygen and nutrients between the placenta and the developing embryo.
8 weeks pregnant ultrasound labeled diagram

Transabdominal pelvic ultrasound image at 8 weeks pregnant

You won’t see too much fine detail in your 8 weeks ultrasound. For instance, you’re not likely to see limbs, nor will you be able to discern the sex of your baby. Those opportunities will come with further ultrasounds later on in your pregnancy or if you’ve opted for additional screening.

Can you see a heartbeat at 8 weeks pregnant on an ultrasound?

Your 8 weeks pregnant ultrasound may be the first time you see or hear a fetal heartbeat. However, there are also occasional reasons you might not. If you incorrectly estimated the date of conception, it may still be too early to detect a heartbeat. Also, during a transabdominal ultrasound, the embryo’s heart may still be too small to see the heartbeat fluttering.

Questions to ask during and after your ultrasound appointment

You can ask the sonographer questions about the ultrasound procedure itself, like:

  • Can I have someone in the room with me?
  • How long will the appointment last?
  • How will you share the images and results?
  • Can I take photos or videos of my own?

The sonographer is often not allowed to answer questions about what your ultrasound contains. The sonographer then prepares the image report, which is reviewed by a radiologist or certain obstetricians (OBs). The radiologist then produces a report for your referring physician, OB or midwife, who will go over the results with you in a follow-up appointment.

Some questions you can ask at your follow-up appointment include:

  • What are the signs of a healthy pregnancy at 8 weeks? Am I demonstrating those signs?
  • What is my estimated due date?
  • How big is the embryo? What is the crown-rump length? What’s the overall size?
  • Did we detect a heartbeat? If so, what is the fetal heart rate? If not, why?
  • If I am pregnant, are there any nutritional and lifestyle adjustments I should start making?
  • What happens next?

How quickly can you get your 8 weeks pregnant ultrasound pictures and report?

Many patients want to see the results of their 8 weeks ultrasound as fast as possible. With PocketHealth, you can instantly access and share your pregnancy ultrasound images and report, as soon as the report and images are released by the imaging facility (some release immediately). That means you typically have access before your follow-up appointment with your practitioner.

PocketHealth allows you to securely access, share and store your images and health information in one place. Plus, you can easily share ultrasound images with friends and family, so they can see how your pregnancy develops.

If you need clarity on the terms in your ultrasound report, PocketHealth’s Report Reader can help. Report Reader can help you understand the results of your 8 weeks pregnant ultrasound, so you feel confident and prepared when talking to your pregnancy care practitioner.

Looking ahead to your next ultrasound appointment

An ultrasound at 8 weeks will confirm your pregnancy, measure the size of your embryo and give you an estimated due date. And you’ll get images, most likely for the very first time!

You and your doctor can now make confident decisions about your pregnancy with accurate knowledge of dates. You’ll also be able to look ahead to the next scans in your pregnancy journey, including the:

  • First-trimester screening around 11 weeks, where you can see limbs and determine nuchal translucency
  • Anatomy screening around 18 weeks, where you can also find out your baby’s sex

Knowing what to expect at your 8 week ultrasound and beyond will help you feel more comfortable and empowered, so you can happily anticipate the next stage of your pregnancy.

How PocketHealth works

Learn more about how to use PocketHealth to access and share your pregnancy ultrasound records.

Medical content review provided by Ben Fine, MD. Any health-related information contained in this post is intended to provide general education only and is not medical advice. This should not be used as a substitute for the advice you receive from your healthcare provider.

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