Ultrasound Scans

Although most doctors recommend a routine scan at twelve weeks, the decision is yours. Make an informed choice that suits you.

Although ultrasound scans are generally considered safe, there are differing views about whether or not pregnant women should routinely accept them. Most doctors support a routine scan to date a pregnancy at eight to 12 weeks and another at 18-22 weeks to check the baby’s organs and limbs.

Ultrasound scans are able to:

  • confirm if the foetus is alive
  • assess and confirm the due date
  • establish whether the mother is carrying more than one child
  • determine the sex of the baby
  • identify abnormalities
  • assess the health of the foetus following a threatened miscarriage
  • determine the size and growth rate of the foetus
  • measure the amount of amniotic fluid present
  • identify placenta previa LINK
  • confirm the positioning of the foetus
  • assess the ongoing functioning of the placenta in an overdue pregnancy
  • A scan can detect abnormalities like spina bifida, heart defect or kidney malfunction. Sometimes, however, scans do not detect an abnormality even when it is present.

An ultrasound takes about 10 minutes to perform and the results are instantaneous. Taking your partner is a good way to include him in the pregnancy and it is also a good idea to have support should your scan show any abnormality.

A radiographer, an ultrasonographer, an obstetrician or a midwife may carry out the scan.

A scanner probe is placed on your skin and very high frequency sound waves audible to the human ear are passed into your body. As the sound waves pass over objects in fluid, they produce a pattern of echoes, these are converted into electrical signals that are processed and displayed on a screen as a two-dimensional image.

Usually only an abdominal ultrasound is required, but a vaginal ultrasound, in which a slim probe is inserted into your vagina, maybe used if necessary.

You will be asked to have a full bladder for the procedure as it creates a more defined image of the womb and cervix. Gel is rubbed over your stomach to lubricate the surface. The scan lasts about 15 minutes and is painless.

Questions You May Wish To Ask

  • What does the scan reveal about my baby?
  • Does the scan confirm my expected delivery date?
  • Can I have a photograph/video of my baby’s scan?
  • What will you be looking for in future scans?
  • Can you tell the sex of my baby?

Doppler Test

This scan has been used for 10 years and is considered safe but is not used in early pregnancy. It is carried out to indicate the blood flow in the baby or in the placenta. It is used to check babies who are small in relation to their due date or whose growth is not as fast as expected. This test can also detect pre-eclampsia.

Nuchal Scan

“Nuchal” means neck. This is a fairly new test that has been performed in a number of obstetric centres around Australia. It is considered a safe ultrasound scan that tests the baby’s neck development for any sign of Down’s Syndrome. Although it does not provide a definitive answer it can show at a very early stage if there is a chance your baby has Down’s. It may be the best non-invasive test available at the moment. If it shows a high risk, you may be offered amniocentesis or CVS.

Foetal Monitoring

This procedure may be used if there is any cause for concern. From around 35 weeks onwards, checking the heart of the foetus can be useful in assessing your baby’s wellbeing. An ultrasound disc is strapped to your abdomen and the foetal heartbeat is charted on tickertape and magnified through a loudspeaker.

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