Scans During Pregnancy
Scans during pregnancy
Scans can make some mums-to-be a little nervous, but there really is no need to feel this way! They all help to confirm that your baby is developing healthily. Plus you get to see your baby moving about too! Every mum-to-be can have a scan at 20 weeks and some hospitals also offer one at 12 weeks. The information below will describe the main scans you may have through your pregnancy so you'll always know what to expect.
What's an ultrasound scan like?
There are two main scans for pregnant women, one is the dating scan at around 12 weeks and the other is the anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. Whilst some authorities offer both, in other areas you may only be offered one scan as standard.
Most pregnancy scans described here are carried out using ultrasound. A gel is applied to your stomach and then a small hand-held device called a transducer is moved over your skin, which sends an image of your baby to a screen. You may be asked to have a full bladder for some of your scans. This will help push your uterus forward and create a clearer picture.
Types of scans
Early pregnancy scans
If you are experiencing pain or bleeding, have had a previous miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, between six and ten weeks you may find you'll have an early scan. As your baby will be so tiny at this stage, to get as clear a picture as possible, this pregnancy scan is usually carried out using a small probe that goes inside your vagina.
This type of scan is a simple procedure but it's natural to feel a bit worried so speak to your doctor – they should be able to answer any questions you have. And remember the scan will check that everything is OK with your baby, which will make for a far less stressful pregnancy.
Offered at around 12 weeks this scan is offered as standard at many (but not all) hospitals. It will give you an accurate due date and assesses several important details:
• The age of your baby.
• Whether there is more than one baby.
• Check their heartbeat.
• Whether there are any obvious abnormalities.
• Whether your ovaries are in a healthy condition.
The scan lasts around 10 minutes during which time images of your baby will be taken. Seeing your baby on the monitor is such an exciting experience and many mums often feel quite emotional too. You'll be given a printout to take home with you, which you can show to your loved ones so they can share in your excitement.
Nuchal translucency (NT) scan
This test is non-invasive and is not a risk to your baby. If carried out, it's usually done between the 11th and 14th week of pregnancy but some hospitals don't offer this type of pregnancy scan.
A Nuchal fold scan gives a risk assessment of your baby having Down's Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. This risk assessment is based on the mum-to-be's age, the thickness of the nuchal fold at the back of your baby's neck, your baby's nasal bone and a blood test.
If there is a high probability, then you might need to take further tests such as an amniocentesis test to get a definite answer. You and your husband will be able to discuss this fully with your doctor.
The mid-trimester pregnancy scan is the one that most mums feel excited about – not only because it's a real milestone but also because your baby will be looking less like a vague shape and more like a baby! You could even find out if you're having a boy or a girl, though, if you'd prefer a surprise at the birth they'll keep it from you. It takes around 15-20 minutes. This scan is usually offered between 18 and 21 weeks. It allows the specialist to check your baby from head to toe, so they'll look at:
• Your baby's head to check for any brain problems or cleft lip.
• The spine and abdomen to see that everything is aligned and developed.
• The size and shape of your baby's heart.
• The stomach, which you should be able to see below the heart. You might be able to see some of the amniotic fluid your baby has swallowed – it will look like a black bubble in their tummy!
• Your baby's kidneys and bladder.
• Your baby's hands and feet – although the specialist probably won't count the fingers or toes.
• The placenta, umbilical cord and amniotic fluid.
• The measurements of your baby's head, abdomen and thigh bone to ensure that they are growing equally well.
If there are any signs of problems, you'll speak with a specialist and be offered another scan.
This ultrasound scan checks that your baby is growing and developing healthily. They're only usually carried out if there is any concern about your baby's growth.