How Much Does an Ultrasound Cost?

Budgeting for Necessary Prenatal Care

Between maternity clothes and a steady supply of premium ice cream, pregnancy sure can be expensive. And depending on your insurance, even basic medical procedures like ultrasounds can add to your costs. Most moms-to-be get at least one ultrasound, although your doctor may want to do at least one ultrasound per trimester. These tests are both medically necessary and emotionally gratifying.

How Many Ultrasounds Do I Need?

Pregnant woman getting ultrasound from doctor

When Will I Have my First Ultrasound?

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It really depends. Expect your doctor to do an ultrasound when you're somewhere around 18 to 20 weeks pregnant. That's the time when your doctor will check your baby's development and tell you the gender, if you want to learn it. Your doctor may want to do an ultrasound to verify your pregnancy during your first trimester and another when you're nearing the end of your third trimester. Further, if you have any complications or have risk factors for complications, your doctor may want to do more ultrasounds over the course of your pregnancy.

How Much Does an Ultrasound Cost With Insurance?

Most major insurance carriers (such as Aetna or Blue Cross Blue Shield) cover ultrasounds. In terms of what's covered, though, there's a ton of variation across carriers and plans. Your plan may only partially cover one ultrasound, or it may fully cover as many ultrasounds as your doctor deems medically necessary. Even if your carrier covers the procedure, you may be responsible for a co-pay of up to $50 or more.

Verify exactly what your policy will cover now, because these procedures can be pricey. Check the type of ultrasound that's covered, too. Your doctor's office will most likely do 2D ultrasounds, which create two-dimensional pictures. That's been the standard type of ultrasound for years. Newer 3D ultrasounds allow you to get a better picture of your baby's features, but your health insurance may not cover these tests. And in any case, your doctor may not have the capacity to do a 3D ultrasound.

How Much Does an Ultrasound Cost Without Insurance?

Pregnant woman getting ultrasound from doctor

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If you plan to pay out-of-pocket for an ultrasound, expect it to cost at least a few hundred dollars. Costs vary widely from one facility to another, so it's hard to predict exactly what your doctor's office will charge, but the average price is around $200 to $300.

Unfortunately, it's hard to get a medical ultrasound for much less than that. Clinics like Planned Parenthood, which offer low-cost prenatal care, are only sometimes equipped to perform ultrasounds. You may have an independent imaging center in your area that can do the test and send the results to your doctor, but the out-of-pocket cost typically won't be much less than that charged by your doctor's office. But if your budget is tight, explain that to your doctor. She may be able to refer you to the lowest-cost service in your area, or at least help you set up a payment plan.

If you want an ultrasound just so you can see your baby or find out the gender, look for a prenatal 3D imaging service in your area. These businesses have popped up all over the country. For a fee that usually ranges from $50 to $150, you can get a 3D ultrasound in a comfortable setting, surrounded by family. These services aren't covered by insurance. They're not performed by doctors, so getting an ultrasound in this setting isn't a substitute for a medical ultrasound.

What Should I Expect During an Ultrasound?

The procedure is a little nerve-wracking; after all, if there's anything wrong with your baby, your doctor might detect it during the ultrasound. But assuming everything's going well, getting an ultrasound should be exciting.

The process itself is painless. The doctor or a technician will uncover your belly and apply some gel to your skin. She'll move a wand called a transducer across your stomach. The transducer bounces sound waves against your uterus. Those waves instantly create an image of your baby, which the doctor can examine on a computer screen. The whole process shouldn't take more than 20 minutes. At the end, you'll walk out with a photo of your growing baby that will remind you exactly why enduring all the heartburn and hormones is worthwhile.