Imagine seeing an expectant mother’s face light up when she sees her baby developing inside her for the very first time - that pure joy parents express when they see their little one’s heartbeat. Obstetric sonographers have the pleasure of witnessing this every day. If you’re interested in becoming an OB ultrasound technician, begin by requesting information from schools below. Read on to learn about credentials, procedures, and patient care.
Pursue a Career as an Obstetric Sonographer
An obstetric sonogram or ultrasound is probably the most well known form of sonography. A sonographer specializing in this area captures images inside a woman’s uterus to verify if she is indeed pregnant and to also monitor the growth, development and health of the embryo/fetus inside of her.
The necessary education and training for an ultrasound tech specializing in OB can typically be completed in two years, with a certification exam available upon completion. Limited obstetrical ultrasound training is also available to nurses who wish to be able to perform ultrasounds on pregnant women, though this will not certify them to perform a complete exam.
The ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) administers a certification exam in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Upon successful completion of this exam, candidates earn the credential of Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Pre-requisites to sit for the ARDMS exam include completion of an ultrasound technician degree or program from an accredited college or university (or completion of an allied-health program with clinical experience). Various ultrasound schools offer programs where students can specialize in obstetrics through coursework and/or clinical rotations.
Procedure & Instruments
Obstetric sonographers apply a gel to the lower abdominal region of their patients. They use an ultrasound scanner which includes a video display screen, a hand-held transducer and a computer system that serves as an intermediary between the two. The transducer is applied to the patient’s lower abdomen and emits sound waves into the body; it almost simultaneously collects “echoes” which are transformed into images onto the monitor. The sonographer, in collaboration with other medical professionals, diagnoses the images, but also shows parents glimpses of their future child.
Perinatal Sonographers specialize in high-risk pregnancies. Working directly with the patient’s ObGyn, they carefully screen for a variety of health problems associated with high-risk pregnancies, including preeclampsia, pregnancies including multiples, and the diagnosis of a health condition for either the baby or the mother. Pursuing a career as a perinatal sonographer requires additional education, including optional certifications.
3D and 4D Ultrasound
A new type of obstetric ultrasound that has emerged is 3D and 4D ultrasound, which enables the expectant parent to see their baby in 3-dimensional images. These can either be still images, as in 3D ultrasound, or as a moving picture, like 4D ultrasound. There has been some controversy within the medical field about these advanced ultrasounds, however, as many of them are being done without medical necessity. Ultrasound parties and baby showers are even becoming popular, often disclosing the sex of the baby in the presence of friends, family, and cake.
Obstetric ultrasounds or sonograms are performed on women who are pregnant (or potentially pregnant). Obstetric sonographers serve many purposes. They determine if an embryo/fetus is indeed present and also assess the health and position of the baby growing inside. They determine the baby’s approximate due date and if the mother is carrying multiple embryos/fetuses. Finally, obstetric sonographers diagnose possible disorders and assess the mother’s status, such as the amount of amniotic fluid accessible to the baby and the opening of her cervix/womb.
Qualities of an Obstetric Sonographer
Obstetric sonographers have to be interdisciplinary. Not only do they have to have a firm background in biology and physics and adept at using and maintaining relevant ultrasound equipment – they also have to be compassionate and personable. Mothers and their partners going in for an obstetric ultrasound may be experiencing a range of emotions from excitement to fear. Obstetric sonographers need to be able to maintain a calm demeanor while answering any questions their patients may have.