I am only (only!) 7 months pregnant, but I’ve already seen my baby yawn. At this point, I’ve actually had 7 ultrasounds (Ultraschalluntersuchung) in Germany, including a feindiagnostik (fine diagnostic) 3D scan to get a peek into what is happening in my belly.
How many ultrasounds do you have in Germany?
As this is my first pregnancy, I wasn’t sure what to expect from pregnancy in Germany, the USA or anywhere else for that matter. So I was a bit surprised when I realized that this amount of scanning was unusual for my stateside pregnant mamas. In the US, it appears that a total of 3 scans is considered normal – an early scan to verify dates, nuchal screen at 12 weeks and then a 20 week anatomy scan to check for issues.
While some people are concerned about the safety of ultrasounds on their unborn fetus, my research reassured me that the German doctors knew what they were doing and I was pleased to get a glimpse of this thing changing my whole life every time I went in for a visit.
Ultrasounds in Germany
My first scan was actually a bit of a surprise. We went in to confirm the pregnancy at just about seven weeks and my doctor stopped us in our tracks with an offer to take a look. We hadn’t even considered the possibility, but now that it was presented we couldn’t resist.
At this early stage, scans are transvaginal. Unlike the movies, scans are not done through the belly but through the vagina. Invasive – yes. Painful – no. A specially designed probe generates sonogram images after you go through the always awkward process of disrobing your lower half in front of the doctor and possibly your partner. Sure they’ve seen it all before, but this is no one’s idea of a good time…until the image appears of a what will one day be your baby. If your scan is done as early on as mine, it may just be a dark spot on the screen that the doctor needs to reassure you is what you want to see. But again if you are like me, all discomfort is forgotten and the dream of a real baby is suddenly, wondrously, concretely realized.
Monthly checks are begun at this point (about every 4 weeks) complete with ultrasound. At about the 4 to 5 month mark you can dispense with the transvaginal scans and transition to the traditional ultrasound exam that you are probably familiar with from films. A paper cloth is tucked dangerously low into the top of your pants (it’s not a German gynecological visit without the chance of exposing your nether region) and a slick jelly is smeared over your ever-bulging belly. The transducer produces grainy black and white 2-D images of the developing fetus which I have found endlessly exciting, despite needing the doctor to decipher the images for me. Copious measurements are made to estimate the age and growth with the thump-thump of their tiny heartbeat providing the soundtrack for your visit.
Feindiagnostik & 3D Scan in Germany
At about 25 weeks pregnant, the doctor will inform you that it’s time for a vital step in measuring your baby’s development – the Feindiagnostik exam. Usually done at a separate office than your regular doctor, it can be quite nerve-racking as this scan (hopefully) rules out possibly serious disorders and issues. The doctor and assistant measure everything from the thigh bone to the cranial ridges and examine the output of everything from the bladder to the heart. We waited with bated breath as the doctor dismissed spina bifida, down’s syndrome and declared her internal organs to be perfect. Big sigh of relief.
More exciting for the soon-to-be parents, this exam comes with a 3D image of the baby. Our little lady was being particularly unhelpful as she hid her face behind her hands. Our doctor, on the other hand, was extremely cooperative maneuvering the baby manually through the belly and providing a running commentary in English. For the first time – we saw her. My nose? A pouty mouth. A yawn. In this scan, this little person becomes so much more than a picture on a scan and is a moving, real-life baby.
What to bring to a Feindiagnostik Exam
Be sure to examine your office’s recommended practices as there were several things I didn’t expect. For my exam, the office recommended:
- Bring Mutterpass, Überweisungsschein (referral) & Versichertenkarte (insurance card). Also be sure to bring your ID (a passport is ideal).
- The exam should take between 15-30 minutes, but set aside 1 1/2 for paperwork, wait, etc. (We got out of there in an hour).
- Feel free to bring your partner, but leave the kids at home.
- A towel is not necessary and you don’t need to have a full bladder for the exam.
- Avoid putting any cream or oil on your belly beforehand – even the night before – as that could obscure the scan.
- Photos and a short video will often be included in the price of the exam.
- Note that while the exam is illuminating, it is impossible to determine every possible issue. This is merely a stepping stone to identify early problems.
Have you had an ultrasound in Germany? How was you experience? Different? Please leave your tips and experience in the comments section below. I need all the help I can get!