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Why Do I Need an Ultrasound Before an Abortion?

By Olivia McDonough

In the state of Virginia, the law requires that a pregnant woman who wants an abortion have an ultrasound first. Some women wonder why this is necessary, and some are even trying to have this requirement removed. However, the ultrasound is absolutely necessary to ensure the health and safety of the woman.

[Edit, the ultrasound is no longer required by law, but is still an essential step in making an informed decision.]

Here are three reasons why the ultrasound requirement before abortion is so important.

1. The ultrasound can determine the location of the pregnancy:

While most pregnancies are located in the uterus, some women experience what is known as an ectopic pregnancy. In this case, the embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus (for example, in the fallopian tube).

An ultrasound can confirm that your pregnancy is located in the uterus. If it cannot be found, there is a chance that the pregnancy is ectopic, and the woman should seek medical care. This is important because an ectopic pregnancy could be life-threatening, and prompt medical help is essential. Without an ultrasound, a woman with an ectopic pregnancy who decided to have a chemical abortion (abortion by pill) could be in serious danger. She would experience all symptoms of the abortion. However, the pregnancy would remain in her fallopian tube without her knowing and would pose grave risk to her health. 

2. The ultrasound determines gestational age:

It is essential to know exactly how far along you are in your pregnancy before having an abortion. The best, most accurate method to determine gestational age is by ultrasound. (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists). 

This is especially imporant for women who are considering chemical abortion. The FDA has approved the use of the chemical abortion pills (mifepristone, also known as RU-486, and misoprostol) for pregnancies of up to 10 weeks. If used later, the chemical abortion can cause even more risk for serious complications. 

Estimating the gestational age based on the timing of your last period is not the most reliable method, even if your periods are regular. If you have a difficult time remembering when your last period took place, or have irregular cycles, it can be even more difficult to estimate the gestational age. An ultrasound can determine how far along you are in your pregnancy, which will help you mitigate risks to your health and will help you make an informed decision about your options. 

3. The ultrasound checks for early miscarriage:

Early miscarriage is common (about 25%). A trained ultrasonographer can typically detect a fetal heartbeat very early in pregnancy. When a heartbeat is not detected after a certain gestational age, miscarriage is likely. 

This is important because abortion is a serious, sometimes very invasive medical procedure. If a pregnancy is likely to end in miscarriage, a woman would not have to experience the risk, cost, or discomfort of an abortion. 


Here at the Front Royal Pregnancy Center, we are committed to providing our clients with the support they need to make informed decisions. We offer free limited ultrasounds performed by our highly trained nurse, and read by a board certified OB/GYN. 

Stay tuned to learn more about the ultrasound services offered by the Front Royal Pregnancy Center. 

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