Pregnancy scans are carried out to build a picture of an unborn child. They check on the growth and development of a baby in the womb, and can pick up a number of potential health problems before the child is born. Ultrasound equipment is used to ‘bounce’ sound off a mum-to-be’s abdomen and measures how sound is ‘bounced’ back, this is then turned into a picture we can see.
Scans are part and parcel of being pregnant for millions of women around the world. Painless and relatively stress-free, two different ultrasound examinations are usually offered in the UK as a matter of course, but there are five available if you opt for a private pregnancy scan.
1. Early pregnancy and dating scan
Just a few weeks after falling pregnant, you will have the opportunity to attend an early pregnancy and dating scan. Typically administered between 6 to 10 weeks, this particular scan is used to accurately forecast a delivery date, and to check if there is more than one baby in the uterus. A sonographer will look for the baby’s heart – which can usually be seen beating from 6 weeks. There will also be a number of measurements taken to ensure your baby is developing as normal, including:
- The size of the gestational sack
- The crown-to-rump length
- The health of the pelvic area
2. Combined screening test
Between around 11 and 13 weeks 6 days into your pregnancy, you will have the chance to undergo serum blood testing in conjunction with a nuchal scan. These important tests are designed to identify potential complications and abnormalities such as Down’s and Edwards Syndrome and Pataus syndrome. However, this test does not provide a definitive diagnosis. If scanning raises any concerns, a placental sample or an amniocentesis will be required.
3. Fetal anatomy scan
At around 19 to 21 weeks of your pregnancy, your baby’s main organs and systems will have developed sufficiently to allow a scan to pick up most potential issues. During a fetal anatomy scan, a sonographer or consultant will check baby from head to toe, such as the brain, skeleton, heart, urinary tract, spine and digestive system. A series of detailed measurements are taken to ensure your baby is growing and developing normally.
4. 3D scan
A 3D scan doesn’t provide any scientific information about the development of your baby in the womb, but it does measure the contours of your baby’s face to produce a detailed, 3D image. A DVD or digital file of your baby in the womb will give you your first glimpse of your child’s face, and provide you with a lasting reminder of your pregnancy and your child’s development.
5. Growth scan
Whether you have concerns about your baby’s development, or you simply want reassurance that your baby is developing well, a growth scan at between 30 and 34 weeks can provide you with peace of mind. A growth scan will look at babies position, size, amount of fluid and blood flow in the cord to see if the placenta is functioning correctly.
Pregnancy scans are painless, routine procedures that check on the development and health of unborn babies. Attending regular appointments and following the advice of trained and experienced clinicians should ensure that any problems with your pregnancy are picked up at the earliest opportunity.