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So the big day is here. It's your first prenatal ultrasound and you're hoping to see your baby-to-be for the first time. Your provider, however, tells you that they aren't able to see the fetus. Don't panic – there are a few possible explanations.
The pregnancy may not be as far along as you thought, especially if you have irregular periods or ovulation. In this case, the pregnancy may not have grown enough to be visible. Another possibility is that the ultrasound may not be powerful enough to detect a tiny pregnancy, even if it's normal. More serious causes of not being able to see the pregnancy on ultrasound include abnormal growth of fetal cells, which may lead to miscarriage, or pregnancy growing in an abnormal location, known as an ectopic pregnancy.
It's completely natural to be feeling anxious and frustrated by this news, but it is very possible that the pregnancy is there and just not visible yet. Please follow your doctor's instructions for follow-up tests. Next steps can include checking pregnancy hormones to see if they are at a level when we would normally be able to see a pregnancy on ultrasound, or checking levels a few days apart to see if they are increasing as expected. Another follow-up option is a repeat ultrasound. This is usually done around one week later, or when the pregnancy hormone has reached a level high enough such that we should be able to see the pregnancy on ultrasound. Waiting for these follow-up tests can be very stressful. Try to stay positive, and know that there can be good news at the next visit. You'll have an answer soon.
Video production by Paige Bierma.