What ultrasound scans can I have?
If you are pregnant in England you will be offered 2 ultrasound scans: An ultrasound scan at around 11 to 14 weeks of pregnancy and one at around 18-21 weeks. If it is deemed medically necessary you may be offered additional viability scans in early pregnancy or growth scans after 21 weeks.
11-14 week scan (dating scan)
The dating scan usually takes about 20 minutes.
The purpose of the dating scan is to check:
- how many weeks pregnant you are and work out your due date (the estimated date of delivery or ‘EDD’)
- whether you are expecting more than 1 baby
- that the baby is growing in the right place
- your baby’s development
This scan may also be part of a combined screening test for Down’s, Edward’s and Patau’s syndromes. The combined test involves a blood test and measuring the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck (nuchal translucency) during the scan.
Combined screening for Down’s, Edward’s and Patau’s syndrome will happen at the dating scan if:
- you have agreed to have screening for the conditions
- the scan takes place between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy when the crown rump length (CRL) measurement of the baby is between 45.0mm and 84.0mm.
You will not be offered the combined screening test if your dating scan happens after the baby’s CRL is more than 84mm, or if the CRL or nuchal translucency cannot be accurately measured. Instead, you will be offered another blood test (the ‘Quad’ test) between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy to screen for your chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome. This test is not quite as accurate as the combined test and cannot test for Edward’s or Patau’s syndromes.
18-21 week scan (anomaly scan)
This detailed ultrasound scan usually takes about 30 minutes. The purpose of the anomaly scan is to check the physical development of your baby – although it cannot pick up every condition.
The 18-21 weeks screening scan is carried out in the same way as the 11-14 week scan. It produces 2D black and white images that give sectional views of the baby. The sex of the baby can usually be identified during this scan.
If there are medical concerns with your pregnancy you may be offered a viability scan which will check to see the growth, health and wellbeing of your early pregnancy. These are emergency scans which will be as long as is deemed necessary for the medical professionals to assess your pregnancy. They usually last less than 20 minutes.
These are offered to you, after 21 weeks, if you are identified as being on a higher risk pathway. They are primarily to check baby’s growth and wellbeing, and are used alongside other tests to make clinical decisions about the best way to manage your pregnancy. A growth scan usually takes around 20 minutes.
Private Ultrasound scans for reassurance
We run a Tuesday evening clinic from 5.30-7.30pm staffed by ENHT sonographers to offer scans from 6 weeks to term to supplement your NHS scans. These scans can be tailored to suit your individual requirements whether that be reassurance about the health of the pregnancy, your baby’s growth or an opportunity to see baby again, using the same standards and protocols as at your regular scans.
2D scans: £80
4D scans: £100 (24- 32 weeks)
You can book these through the private patients’ department on:
01438 288036/ 286646
What happens at a scan?
Most scans are carried out by specially-trained staff called sonographers. In order for the sonographer to get good images of your baby, the scan is carried out in a dimly-lit room and you will need to attend with a full bladder.
- You will be asked to lie on a couch.
- You will be asked to raise your top to your chest and lower your skirt or trousers to your hips.
- Tissue paper will be tucked around your clothing to protect it from the ultrasound gel, which will then be put on your abdomen.
- The sonographer passes a hand-held probe over your skin to examine the baby’s body. The gel ensures there is good contact between the probe and your skin.
The scan does not hurt, but the sonographer may need to apply slight pressure to get the best views of your baby. This might be uncomfortable. A black and white picture of your baby will then be seen on the ultrasound screen. During the examination sonographers need to keep the screen in a position that gives them a good view of your baby. You may have a monitor to look at or be shown the images at the end of the scan.
The scan is a medical examination. We will ensure you understand what is going to happen. You will be asked to give your permission for it to be carried out – feel free to ask any questions. The person scanning you may need to concentrate quietly at certain points during the scan, but will answer your questions before or after. General mobile phone usage is not permitted in the scanning room.
Sometimes it is difficult to get good views of a baby. This does not mean there is anything to worry about. Very occasionally the scan cannot be completed; this may be because a baby is lying in an awkward position or you are above average weight- which increases transmission depth. Should it be clinically necessary, you will be offered an additional scan to get better images. However, should a scan be unsuccessful, please be assured your baby will be offered an all over physical examination after birth.
Who can I bring?
You may like someone to come with you to the scan appointment. It is expected that the mother/birthing person will attend the hospital, for the scan, with one adult only.
Children are not permitted to attend scan appointments as they can often be distracting to the sonographer while they are carrying out important clinical checks and also to parents while they are absorbing essential information. A screening environment is not appropriate for children as it can be distressing for them to witness their parents upset if anomalies/pathology relating to the baby are found. Most hospitals do not allow children to attend scans as childcare at the hospital is not available. If there are exceptional circumstances and you cannot arrange childcare, please contact your scan department to discuss this with them.
How can I get pictures of my baby?
We ask that photographs or videos are not taken during the scan using mobile phones or other recording equipment. This is for the following reasons:
- Pathology relating to the baby or birthing woman/person may be revealed during the scan – which can be very distressing. It is not appropriate to record or photograph such events.
- Sonographers require high levels of concentration during obstetric ultrasound examinations. Video recording and additional lighting from phones can be distracting and distort a sonographer’s vision. The birthing woman/person and those accompanying them person should refrain from general mobile phone usage during the scan for this reason.
- Privacy of staff should be respected and they should be able to fulfil their job without being recorded.
Parents are given the opportunity to buy an ultrasound image. This charge is to cover the cost of the thermal paper used –please see your local Trust for costs. Images may be requested at any scan, but the length of the scan must not be extended in order to obtain a ‘good’ picture.
Please note that thermal images should not be subjected to heat (e.g. laminating) and the long-term stability of thermal images is not known.
Can I find out my baby’s sex?
If requested by the birthing woman/person, sonographers are able to provide an opinion on the sex of the baby at the anomaly scan. This will depend on the position of the baby and other factors, so cannot always be seen.
It is not a requirement of the NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme so no additional time is provided to look for the sex of the baby. It is important that sonographers spend as much time as they need to check the structures of the baby and perform the diagnostic scan without delays to scan lists. They are unable to spend longer looking for the sex of the baby or to book another scan if they cannot offer an opinion at the time of the scan.
If the sonographer can see, they will tell you their opinion on sex at the time of the scan. This opinion is not 100% accurate.
As this is an NHS-funded scan, for clinical reasons sonographers will not provide an opinion on fetal sex to any other persons not in attendance nor in an envelope for ‘gender reveal’ purposes. Alternative providers outside the NHS may be able to offer this service – please ensure that they employ qualified sonographers.
Complaints, compliments and feedback
Please contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) or share your experience with the Lister Maternity Voices Partnership who work closely with us to represent your views and improve standards.
You can email email@example.com or call the team on 01438 285811.
For the Lister Maternity Voices Partnership please email firstname.lastname@example.org