Pregnancy Scans

Doctors advise every mother-to-be to have certain scans during pregnancy. These prenatal or antenatal tests are an essential part of keeping a steady check on the health of mother and baby as the pregnancy progresses.

How do scans work?

Most scans you can expect to encounter are forms of ultrasound. This technology allows the qualified sonographer to form a useful and accurate picture of the baby within the womb by directing high frequency sound waves into the uterus and picking up their echoes as an image. Because the waves bounce off objects, the baby and its organs are highlighted, allowing invaluable checks on foetal health and development. The procedure is non-invasiveness and painless, so no incisions are made and discomfort is rare.

Varieties of scan

Scans have many purposes, but these can generally be collected into one significant category: checking on the developing baby’s health. The mother’s health is also a priority, but this is mostly covered during your regular visits to the doctor during pregnancy. Your scans are there to ensure the pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible, and that any problems are found and diagnosed early. To this end, different scans are used for different purposes at varying times throughout the pregnancy. In this section of the site we explore the scans available and how they can help you and your baby.

When will I have a scan?

The timing of scans can be broadly summarised to the following weeks during pregnancy:

  • Between 6 and 8 weeks you should be offered a dating scan. This gives an accurate estimate of the baby’s due date, in addition to letting the sonographer check for a heartbeat. It is also the first chance for parents to see their baby.
  • A nuchal scan looks for risks of Down’s syndrome and other chromosomal conditions, and is usually given at around 10 to 14 weeks.
  • The anomaly scan is used at around 20 to 23 weeks to check for numerous potential abnormalities that may not have been visible before. Spina bifida is one of the major conditions this scan can find. Organ and skeletal formation is also assessed.

Scans after this point mostly focus on the baby’s growth and monitor the position of the placenta. A Doppler scan is available in the event of placental irregularity. All of the above scans are explained in detail in this section.

How many scans are required?

The extent of pregnancy scans depends on individual circumstances as well as doctors’ recommendations and personal preference. Every time a scan is offered, talk through the specifics and options with your doctor or midwife. It is always beneficial to know exactly what the sonographer is looking for so that you are prepared for all outcomes. Some mothers and fathers choose to have 3D or 4D scans, which can be useful for assessing foetal health in more detail but are also used as bonding tools to bring the parents close to the baby.

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