Scans during pregnancy are extremely important for screening the health and wellbeing of the baby, screening for abnormalities and providing useful information on the development of the foetus. There are a number of scans that can be performed and might be used for a number of different purposes.
What are scans used for during pregnancy?
Some of the reasons why scans might be performed during pregnancy include:
- To confirm that you are pregnant and review how many foetuses are present to identify twins or triplets.
- To confirm that the pregnancy is taking place in the uterus, that it is developing as expected and the presence of a heartbeat.
- To calculate the estimated due date of the baby.
- To examine the likelihood of any abnormalities in the foetus as it grows and its overall physical development.
- To determine the amount of amniotic fluid present around the baby and the position of the baby and placenta before birth.
What are the regular scans recommended during pregnancy?
There are several scans that are generally recommended during the pregnancy period:
- A Dating Scan: Dating scans can be performed as early as six weeks into the pregnancy and provide information on when the conception took place and when the expected arrival date of the baby might be.
- A first trimester pregnancy screening scan: Also known as a nuchal translucency scan this ultrasound scan is normally performed within the first 11 to 13 weeks of pregnancy. This test is performed to screen for specific chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome and normally takes place alongside other tests such as blood screening.
- A second trimester pregnancy screening scan: This scan is normally performed in the 18 to 20 week period of the pregnancy and its major purpose is to screen for any anatomical abnormalities such as problems with the heart or internal organs. If the genitals can be easily seen the doctor might also be able to confirm the sex of the baby at this stage.
While these are the regular tests performed throughout the pregnancy if the pregnancy is high risk or involves multiple births such as twins then other scans might be recommended.
Ultrasound scans are a simple and safe procedure that is used to visualise internal structures within the body. When having your ultrasound scan during pregnancy the doctor or medical professional will apply a gel to the stomach and then use a device that produces soundwaves to reflect off the baby and provide a picture of what is going on inside your body. In some cases very early on in the pregnancy if there is a need to do an ultrasound scan it might be necessary to do it transvaginally, which means that the ultrasound device is gently inserted into the vagina to provide images rather than over the abdomen. It is completely painless and safe for the baby in addition to being extremely useful for understanding how the pregnancy is developing.