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A First Look

It took only a moment for Megan Johnson to get her first look at her growing baby.

But that little glimpse of tiny arms and legs at her first prenatal appointment was all she needed to make her pregnancy feel real. “It was so incredible, it was almost overwhelming,” says the expectant mom, whose baby is due in June. “We could see it there, moving and bouncing around. ”

Sanford Womens’ offers patients like Megan a chance to see their new baby at their first obstetrics appointment. A handheld, pocket-sized ultrasound device is used for all new expectant moms to let them see their baby’s heartbeat.

A reassuring start

The Vscan visualization tool, offered at no cost to patients at Sanford Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic and Sanford Women’s Health Plaza, lets doctors and new parents take a look at the growing baby’s heart, check fetal movement and monitor amniotic fluid levels. And it’s done at the first prenatal visit with a device the size of a cell phone, right in the clinic exam room, says Dr. Erica Schipper.

“With every pregnancy, parents are nervous until they hear that heartbeat and they see the baby,” says the obstetrician/gynecologist, as she views the image on the tiny screen, turning the screen to let Megan take a quick look. “We’re able to do it right away and give them peace of mind right away.”

In the past, Sanford doctors have had to rely on a Doppler stethoscope to hear those first heart tones. Often, those first heartbeats couldn’t be found easily during that first visit at about 10-12 weeks of the baby’s development – leaving new parents to wonder and wait longer. And in most routine pregnancies, a full ultrasound isn’t generally done until about 20 weeks, making parents wait even longer to see their developing baby.

Saving time and money

Providing a “first look” at that first pre-natal appointment helps ease unnecessary worries and helps doctors pinpoint the baby’s gestational age without an expensive and time consuming trip to the ultrasound lab, says Dr. Schipper.

The doctor says she also can use the device in the last few weeks of a pregnancy to determine if the baby is properly positioned for labor and delivery. The handheld scanner gives Dr. Schipper a way to easily check the head placement during those last few appointments before the baby is born.

“It gives us so much more information right here in the exam room,” says Dr. Schipper. “It’s just a great service to offer our patients.” Megan and her husband Scott came together to the first pre-natal appointment, when she was about 10 weeks along in the pregnancy. The new mom said she knew that both she and her husband were kind of nervous until Dr. Schipper spread gel on Megan’s stomach and put the tiny transducer, about the size of a pencil, on her abdomen.

Instant bonding

On the handheld screen, the couple caught the first glimpse of their baby. Megan cried happy tears, she says.

“It made it so much more real and so much more exciting,” Megan says, smiling as she looks at her baby on the small screen. “Afterward Scott told me how much it meant to him to see the baby, the tiny arms and legs. You know it’s there, but seeing it is even better.”

The couple took out their cell phones and snapped pictures of the screen, sending images and even a little video of their new baby to family members. They could see a visual image of the baby’s heartbeat and they knew all was well, she said.

They plan to find out if they’ll be having a boy or girl at their full ultrasound appointment a few months later. Until then, Megan is just thrilled to have had a chance to make memories at her first doctor’s visit.

“Just seeing the baby is reassuring,” she says. “It makes us that more excited.”

Posted Date: February 2013