Types of medical ultrasounds

Most ultrasounds are external, on your abdomen. You then get some gel on your abdomen so the ultrasound technician can take good images. Early ultrasounds we sometimes do internally, through the vagina. Then we get closer to the uterus and can take better images. Both types of ultrasound do not hurt and are safe. Checking of an IUD placement is always internal.


How it works.

In an ultrasound, we send sound waves through your abdomen. Your organs and the baby reflect these waves and the computer converts that into 2D or 3D images. The sound waves are high-frequency, so you cannot hear them. An ultrasound is safe for your baby. No radiation is used and the baby is not affected by the ultrasound machine.

If you are pregnant, you will receive a number of ultrasounds on medical grounds. The standard ultrasounds are the term ultrasound between 10 and 11 weeks, the 13-week ultrasound and the 20-week ultrasound. The latter two, like the NIPT, fall under prenatal screening tests, read more at www.pns.nl.
In addition to these ultrasounds, there are other medical ultrasounds which are done on indication of your midwife. We call these the so-called “specific diagnosis ultrasounds”. Below we explain more about all types of medical ultrasounds. Want an additional ultrasound without a medical indication? Then take a look at our pretecho services.

Types of medical ultrasounds

Vitality Ultrasound

The vitality ultrasound is an early ultrasound between 7 and 10 weeks. We look at:

  • Whether a beating heart can be seen,
  • Whether the fetus is inside or outside the uterus,
  • Whether there are any abnormalities in or on your uterus,
  • Whether you are expecting a singleton or multiple.

This ultrasound is on medical indication in case of blood loss, previous miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies or a very irregular cycle. A vitality ultrasound is usually internal so we can get a good look at everything. Would you like an early ultrasound and have no medical indication? That is possible, make an appointment for a vitality ultrasound on your own request. You pay for this ultrasound yourself.

Term ultrasound

The term ultrasound is between the 10th and 11th week of your pregnancy. Often this is the first ultrasound you get. We look at:

  • Whether a beating heart can be seen,
  • How long you have been pregnant and what your exact due date is,
  • Whether the fetus is inside or outside the uterus,
  • Whether there are any abnormalities in or on your uterus,
  • Whether you are expecting a singleton or multiple.

The ultrasound technician measures your baby from crown to tailbone to determine the exact gestational age and due date. In the first few weeks, all babies grow at the same rate, so growth is a good indication of how long you are pregnant.

13-week ultrasound

The 13-week ultrasound is also called “First Trimester Structural Ultrasound Examination”. In this examination, the ultrasound technician looks early in the pregnancy to see if there are any physical abnormalities in your unborn baby. This examination takes place between 12+3 and 14+3 weeks of pregnancy.

The 13-week ultrasound is offered as part of the national scientific IMITAS study. No gender statement is made during this ultrasound.

Any pregnant person can have this ultrasound performed within the set period, but it is not mandatory. This ultrasound is free of cost.

20-week ultrasound

The 20-week ultrasound is also called the “Second Trimester Structural Ultrasound Examination”. At this ultrasound, we look for possible abnormalities in your baby or pregnancy such as:

Spina bifida, heart defects, cleft palate, abdominal wall defects, organ abnormalities, skeletal abnormalities, placental position and amniotic fluid volume. The ultrasound technician tells you on the spot what she sees. In most cases we find no abnormalities, in 3-4% of cases we do. Timely detection of abnormalities allows sufficient time for follow-up testing and consultation with your midwife or gynecologist. At this ultrasound, we can often see the gender of your baby as well. If you don’t want to know the gender of your baby, please let the ultrasound technician know in advance.

Growth ultrasound

We can perform the growth ultrasound from the 30th week. When exactly is determined by your obstetrician. We then look at:

  • Head circumference,
  • Abdominal girth,
  • Length of upper leg bone,
  • Amount of amniotic fluid,
  • Size and blood flow of the placenta.

We compare the measurements to the average growth of babies at the same gestational age. We will know if your child deviates from that average. This ultrasound can be only one time, or can be repeated at the request of your midwife.

Echo blood loss

Blood loss during pregnancy is not what you want to see and can cause a lot of stress. Most of the time, fortunately, nothing is wrong. In this ultrasound we look at:

  • Your baby’s growth,
  • Presence of blood clots in the uterus,
  • The cervix,
  • The location of the placenta.

We often do this ultrasound internally so we can check your uterus properly. Good to know: about 30% of women experience blood loss in (early) pregnancy. So it is quite common and the cause is often harmless.


If we see that your placenta is too low during the 20-week ultrasound, we do this ultrasound around 32 weeks. We then look at:

  • The location of the placenta,
  • The amount of amniotic fluid,
  • Your baby’s growth.

An low placed placenta lies (partially) over or too close to the cervix. This can cause problems in a vaginal delivery. With an external and internal ultrasound, we check the exact position. If a low-lying placenta is detected at 20 weeks, you don’t have to be concerned yet: often the placenta moves up enough in the following weeks due to the growth of your uterus.

Presentation ultrasound

The presentation ultrasound takes place around the 36th week of your pregnancy. We look at:

  • Your baby’s position (breech presentation or not),
  • The amount of amniotic fluid,
  • Your baby’s growth.

We perform this ultrasound to check how your baby is positioned. If the midwife doubts a breech presentation, it is important to know for sure so that proper plans can be made for your delivery.

Want to have an ultrasound done for fun?

Breech position

A fetus often changes positions, but from the eighth month on, most children lie with their heads down. Three to four percent is lying in breech position. If your baby is in the breech position, there is a slightly higher chance of complications during and after the delivery. You can give nature a helping hand through an external cephalic version (ECV).

A midwife who specializes in ECV tries, with her hands on the outside of your abdomen, to turn your child to head down position. Beforehand, we do an ultrasound to determine if an ECV is useful and possible. This depends, among other things, on the amount of amniotic fluid and the position of baby and placenta. The success rate is around 45%. For more information, also visit stuitinwest.com.

Having an ultrasound done at Bolwerk?

Would you like to have an ultrasound at Staten Bolwerk in Haarlem?
Our experienced ultrasound technicians will be happy to schedule an appointment with you!