Your baby’s first ultrasound is an exciting experience where expectant parents have the opportunity to see their baby for the first time and gain an important understanding of how the baby is developing in the womb.
The first ultrasound scan usually takes place around the 12th week of your pregnancy and is an important process that can also cause some parents anxiety. This is because it is at this scan that your sonographer will be analysing the baby from head-to-toe to check that the baby’s vital organs are developing and for any signs of fetal abnormality.
Are you anxious about your first ultrasound scan? We ask Dean Meredith, Sonography and Fetal Medicine Lead at The Portland Hospital, what parents can expect at their first ultrasound appointment.
When will I have my first ultrasound appointment?
Your first ultrasound appointment will usually take place when you are between 11 weeks and 2 days and 13 weeks and 6 days into your pregnancy.
How long does an ultrasound appointment last for?
A standard ultrasound appointment is half an hour but if the baby is in the optimum position and developing as expected, an ultrasound appointment can be completed very quickly.
What does the 12 week scan test for?
The purpose of the 12 week scan is to confirm the number of babies that you are having and your due date, and to perform the combined nuchal test for Down’s syndrome.
What will the sonographer be able to tell me about my baby at the first scan?
At your first appointment your sonographer will be able to tell you the number of babies that you are having, the speed of your baby’s heartbeat and your baby’s crump length (the distance between the top of the head to the area above where the legs begin) which should be between 45 and 84 mm to undertake the combined test.
What milestones will my baby have reached at the 12 week scan?
At your 12 week scan your sonographer will first look to see that your baby’s brain has started to develop into two hemispheres.
They will also check that your baby’s stomach has fluid in it, which is a sign that they can swallow, that they can see the baby’s bladder as this indicates that the baby’s kidneys have started to function. At this stage they will also check that they can see the baby’s arms and legs.
Additionally, your sonographer will check that your baby’s heart has started to beat and that it has a heart rate between 120 and 180 beats per minute.
What is measured in the nuchal test?
The nuchal test measures the nuchal translucency, which is the space at the back of the baby’s neck.
If the nuchal translucency is thickened to more than 3.5mm this can be an indicator of an increased risk for a chromosomal problem.
Are there any alternatives to the nuchal test?
The alternative to the nuchal test is a non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). This test allows for the measurement of free fetal DNA in the mother’s blood and can be used to detect the three most common chromosomal birth defects: Down’s, Edwards and Patau syndromes.
This test can be undertaken from 10 weeks gestation and involves a simple blood test from the mother with results available in 14 days.
It can be taken if you have missed your combined test or if you have had a positive result and would like a more accurate second opinion without the risk of having an invasive procedure such as a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) or Amniocentesis.
This test does not replace your 12 week ultrasound scan which is used to detect possible physical defects within your baby and the nuchal translucency.
Will I receive a copy of my baby’s scan image?
After your baby’s scan is completed you will have the option to have a copy of the scan images to share with friends and family.
At The Portland Hospital you can also use our new I-Baby facility. This technology makes it easy to share these special images with family and friends around the world via an iBabyScan, which allows you to securely view your pregnancy scan video and images online and share them via Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and email direct from your mobile, ipad, laptop or computer.
For further information or to book an ultrasound scan, iBabyScan or non-invasive prenatal test (Harmony), please contact the ultrasound department at The Portland Hospital on 0207 390 6351 or visit us online on http://www.theportlandhospital.com/maternity/ultrasound-and-fetal-medicine/