13 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound: What to Know Before Your Appointment

13 weeks pregnant ultrasound image of fetus

Prepping for an ultrasound at 13 weeks pregnant? Here’s what to know and how to prepare for your next scan.

By week 13, you’re moving past your first trimester and beginning your second trimester. Your baby, while tiny, is now fully formed, down to their fingers and toes!

If you’re getting ready for your 13 weeks scan this week, you’ll likely want to know:

  • What the sonographer will be screening for and what details you can see
  • What information you’ll gain from a nuchal translucency screening test
  • What questions you can ask at your ultrasound appointment and follow-up
  • How to understand and share your ultrasound images

Why get an ultrasound at 13 weeks pregnant?

If you’re getting a 13 weeks pregnant ultrasound, the sonographer or ultrasound technician will be screening for:

  • The size of the fetus. Measuring crown to rump length can help determine your due date.
  • Kidney and urinary tract development. Your baby can take in fluids and urinate waste products at this stage.
  • Bone tissue formation. Your technician will be able to see more well-defined and proportionate arms and legs.
  • External development of sex organs. Sex organs will begin to appear on the outside of your baby’s body, while ovaries or testes continue to grow inside. This development may not give a clear indication of sex just yet, though.
  • More proportionate sizing between head and body. Your baby’s body will be lengthening and become more distinct from the head.
  • Structural irregularities. As your baby’s body develops, your doctor will monitor growth to make sure different externally visible parts are growing as expected.
  • Movement. Your baby will be able to make small, abrupt movements and so you may be able to see your baby in different positions than previous ultrasounds.
  • Fetal heart rate and blood flows. Your doctor will be able to track your baby’s heart rate to ensure it falls within the expected beats per minute and that vessels are developing normally to allow blood flow.
  • Sufficient amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid levels must not drop below a certain level or it can impact the health of you and your baby.
  • The health and location of your placenta. Your placenta provides nourishment for your baby and your doctor will check to make sure your placenta is able to support continued development.
  • The condition of your cervix, ovaries and uterus. As your pregnancy continues, your body will change to prepare for delivery. In particular, your doctor can ensure your cervix is lengthening as appropriate for this stage of pregnancy.
  • Discerning the source of vaginal bleeding, if you are experiencing any. Vaginal bleeding is not always cause for concern, but an ultrasound can help your doctor determine the cause.

If you didn’t have a scan at 11 or 12 weeks, your ultrasound technician may also screen to determine:

  • Your due date. Your doctor can use your ultrasound information to confirm or adjust your due date.
  • Checking for multiple pregnancies. Your doctor will be able to confirm the existence of more than one fetus during this ultrasound.
  • Genetic anomalies by measuring nuchal translucency to determine the risk of chromosomal anomalies

What does a nuchal translucency screening tell you?

A nuchal translucency (NT) screening measures the thickness of the area of fluid buildup at the back of the baby’s neck. Some fluid is expected, but too much might indicate a potential risk of chromosomal anomalies like Trisomy 21 (i.e., Down syndrome). It is often one of several routine prenatal screenings during the first trimester. But keep in mind that it is a screening test, not a diagnosis.

11 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound Image Showing Nuchal Translucency Measurement

Pregnancy ultrasound image showing increased nuchal translucency

If your NT ultrasound comes back positive or inconclusive and you want more information, your practitioner may order further screening tests. For instance, noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a highly accurate genetic screening based on your blood sample, which will also contain fragments of your baby’s DNA. This DNA can indicate the fetus’ genetic makeup, including chromosomal anomalies. NIPT identifies the risk of Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities.

After screening tests come diagnostic tests. These are the tests that provide diagnoses. With your consent, your physician may order the following:

  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): A small sample of tissue is removed from the placenta for genetic testing and analysis. CVS tests for Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and other conditions, but does not test for birth defects like heart problems.
  • Amniocentesis: A sample of amniotic fluid is withdrawn and sent to the lab for testing. Keep in mind that amniocentesis is normally performed after 15 weeks. Amniocentesis can test for chromosomal and genetic conditions like Down syndrome, or certain genetic conditions like sickle cell disease or cystic fibrosis. The test can also indicate neural tube defects like spina bifida, which CVS cannot test for, and Rh disease.

Ask your practitioner what information these tests can give you and whether they recommend one test over another. You can also choose not to receive more information at this time and wait until your next ultrasound at 18-20 weeks.

What to expect at a 13 weeks pregnant ultrasound appointment

During an ultrasound, a sonographer or trained technician uses a hand-held device called a transducer to make sound waves (too quiet for human ears to hear) that travel painlessly through your body to your baby. An ultrasound machine can detect the sound waves and use them to create an image of your baby’s exact size, shape and position.

Unlike X-rays, ultrasounds don’t use radiation to capture images and are safe when performed by a trained sonographer or ultrasound technician, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Only practitioners trained to give fetal ultrasounds can give you a pregnancy ultrasound.

At your 13 week ultrasound, you will most likely receive a transabdominal ultrasound. During a transabdominal ultrasound, the sonographer will place gel on your belly and abdomen and slide a transducer across the gel to capture detailed images of different parts of your baby and your womb and cervix.

While ultrasound scans are safe and low impact, there are some steps you can take to prepare for your appointment, such as:

  • Bringing a copy of your 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).
  • Booking your appointment when your baby is more active. This allows the ultrasound to capture as many images as possible. Drinking a cold sugary beverage right before your appointment can also help make your baby more active.
  • Arriving with a full bladder. Soundwaves travel more easily through liquid, so a full bladder helps your sonographer capture the best image possible of your baby.
  • Having a support person with you during the appointment. Be sure to check ahead with the imaging clinic or hospital for guidance because not all facilities allow support persons to attend.
  • Drinking lots of water in the week leading up to your ultrasound. Staying well hydrated helps keep amniotic fluid clear, allowing for better images.
  • Wearing loose and comfortable clothing. Make sure that whatever you wear is easy to take off and put on.

What can you see on an ultrasound at 13 weeks pregnant?

Using the results of your 13 weeks ultrasound, your healthcare practitioner will learn valuable information about how the fetus is developing and how your body is changing. This will likely be the last time the fetus is measured using crown rump length, which will be about 2.9 inches (7.4 cm). The body and head will be reaching more proportionate sizing and you may even be able to see the fetus yawn, suck its thumb, stretch and make faces!

Every part of your baby’s body is becoming more defined, and eyelashes, fingernails and hair are also starting to grow. Certain major organs, like the kidney system, are also developing and becoming functional now. Although you won’t be able to see it on your ultrasound, your baby will be developing vocal chords too, as well as ovaries or testes. You may be able to see more of these details in later pregnancy ultrasounds.

Can you tell the sex of the baby at 13 weeks pregnant?

Though sometimes used as synonyms, sex and gender mean different things. Sex refers to physical characteristics and attributes, while gender refers to the social roles individuals use to identify themselves in the world. Predictions of the sex of your fetus at 13 weeks are fairly accurate, although it’s more common to wait until about midway through the second trimester.

At 13 weeks, your practitioner may be able to see the genital tubercle or the very beginnings of genitalia forming. Called the nub theory, by 13 weeks, it’s over 98% accurate in predicting sex by examining the angle of the tubercle.

Keep in mind that your practitioner will likely send you for an anatomy scan around the 20-week mark anyways to determine sex, but you can find out earlier if you are opting into additional diagnostic testing, such as NIPT, CVS or amniocentesis.

Questions to ask during and after your ultrasound appointment

The ultrasound technician at your appointment can’t legally answer questions about what can be seen in your ultrasound or discuss the results of your ultrasound report. However, the technician can answer questions about your appointment and the procedure itself. They will prepare images, which is reviewed by a radiologist. The radiologist then prepares a report for your practitioner to discuss with you at your ultrasound follow-up appointment.

Questions to ask the ultrasound technician before and during your appointment:

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

Your healthcare practitioner will go over the results of your 13 weeks pregnant ultrasound with you at your follow-up appointment. The ultrasound provides insight into the health and development of the fetus and your own health, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Questions to ask your practitioner at your follow-up appointment:

  • What are the signs of a healthy pregnancy at 13 weeks? Do I fit those markers?
  • Is there any change to my due date?
  • How big is the fetus? What’s the crown rump length?
  • Is the heartbeat in the normal range?
  • What were the results of the nuchal translucency test?
  • Do any results require more testing? If so, what kind?
  • What changes to my body or moods will I notice in the next few weeks?
  • When is my next ultrasound?

How to access and share your 13 weeks pregnant ultrasound pictures and report

You may be eager to access your 13 weeks pregnant ultrasound images and report as soon as possible. With PocketHealth you can quickly and easily access and share your pregnancy ultrasound images and report–often before your follow-up appointment with your practitioner. Access your records here.

PocketHealth enables you to securely access, share and store your imaging and other health information in one place. You can also easily share images with family and friends and see how your baby is changing over time.

Pregnancy ultrasound terminology can be complicated, but PocketHealth Report Reader is there to help. Report Reader makes it easier to understand terms in your ultrasound report and feel more prepared and confident when speaking to your pregnancy care practitioner.

Moving into your second trimester with confidence

Your 13 weeks pregnant ultrasound provides you and your practitioner with important information about your and your baby’s health and can determine whether you may need additional testing.

Understanding what’s happening inside your body and how your baby is growing can give you confidence in how your pregnancy is progressing into the second trimester.

How PocketHealth works

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

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