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Ultrasounds - what can they show, reasons for

Ultrasounds - what can they show, reasons for


  • Measuring the amniotic fluid volume around the baby, also called an 'amniotic fluid index' (or AFI). However, this is regarded as a controversial practice by some caregivers. Fluid measures can vary, depending on the ultrasonographer and the method used to measure. Also, amniotic fluid volume decreases normally from 37 weeks onwards anyway and factors such as the hydration of the woman can also affect amniotic fluid volume. If the mother is dehydrated then the volume can be lower (so drink plenty of water during the 24 hours before the test!)
  • A 'biophysical profile' (or BPP). This is a combination of the CTG as well as the ultrasound to measure the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby and assessing the blood flow through the baby's cord and perhaps blood flow between the uterus and placenta (called 'Doppler ultrasound'). All three aspects are considered when assessing the health of the baby.
  • Some hospitals look at the baby's breathing pattern and the tone of the baby's posture and movements. However, there is little evidence of the effectiveness of these measures.
  • Another technique called 'placental grading', which looks at the texture of the placenta using ultrasound. Early research shows this may be a more accurate tool, but it is not conclusive.

NOTE: All the above tests act as a guide only and do not guarantee the health of your baby. There are some women, who have a good AFI or Biophysical Profile (BPP), and yet their baby is not well, and others who have a low AFI or poor BPP and their baby is actually fine. At present we have no accurate, reliable tests available that are able to definitely tell us how the baby is actually coping in the uterus. You may wish to read overdue baby.

Last revised: Monday, 12 November 2012

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.

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