Ultrasound scans are an essential component of your antenatal / prenatal / maternity care. There are a number of essential “sonographic examinations” or “scans” that are recommended for ensuring the health and wellbeing of the baby throughout the pregnancy. Ultrasound scanning is safe in pregnancy and does not cause harm. It is a great way to bond with the baby and usually an enjoyable experience. Whist scans may pick up some abnormalities, they can sometimes raise anxieties due to certain findings, which may not be of significance, but need to be interpreted by an expert. Also, no ultrasound scan can completely exclude abnormalities and ensure a healthy baby.
In general, following scans are deemed necessary at various stages of your pregnancy –
6-10 weeks: Viability scan –
This scan checks out the number of embryos and detects the presence of the fetal heart beat – thus ensuring viability of the pregnancy.
11-13 weeks: Nuchal scan –
This scan is a screening test for the detection of major chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. This is an important scan and a blood test is combined with the scan to give a Predicted Risk Score. If you test “High Risk” then further tests (such as amniocentesis) may be recommended to confirm or refute the problem.
18-20 weeks: Anatomy / Anomaly scan
This scan looks at your baby from top to toe, aiming to pick up any problems / congenital anomalies. Of course, most babies are normal, hence this scan gives you and your partner the reassurance that “all is well”! You will enjoy seeing how much detail you can see in the baby. In women at high risk for preterm delivery (multiple pregnancies, previous preterm birth, abnormalities of the uterus or previous cervical surgery a transvaginal scan is advised to
measure the length of the cervix. If any abnormalities are detected the significance of the findings is discussed and the couple is given the opportunity to have further counselling.
28-40 weeks: Growth scans, 3D/4D scans –
Some obstetricians advise that this scan is offered to all women. Others reserve such scans for those women who have had previous complications of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia, growth restriction, diabetes, stillbirth, and for those women who develop a problem during the course of their current pregnancy. This scan aims to determine the growth and health of the fetus. It is a good time to see the face of the baby on 3D and 4D scans.