Scans Throughout The Pregnancy Cycle

Posted on October 29, 2011

Throughout the standard 40 week pregnancy cycle, a mother-to-be may find herself invited to attend various ultrasound scans. There are ultrasound scans to test for a variety of things at every stage of the pregnancy and it can be overwhelming for a first time mother to understand what each scan is for and what it shows, especially as she will be concerned about the baby’s health and development. Fortunately, development can be tested at every stage of the cycle right up until the final week.

The first scan a mother-to-be can have is an early pregnancy scan which takes place between the eighth and fourteenth week; this is at the end of the first trimester and the start of the second. At this point the baby is likely to be only 8cm long. The early pregnancy scan will identify how many foetuses are inside the womb and whether development is proceeding normally.

Also around this time, in the eleventh to thirteenth week, a nuchal translucency scan can be undertaken. The nuchal translucency scan is used to identify the risk of the baby being born with down’s syndrome. The scan measures the thickness of tissue fluid found at the back of the baby’s neck (the nuchal translucency). This is then used in a calculation along with the mother’s age and the length of the baby to identify the risk that the baby may have Down ’s syndrome. It is helpful to know if a baby will suffer from Down’s syndrome early in the pregnancy so the parents can prepare to alter their lives and how to best care for the child.

After the eighteenth week an anatomical survey scan, or detailed anatomy scan, is usually conducted. This scan is used to check the baby is developing properly and to identify major health defects such as spina bifida and missing or shortened limbs. The whole of the foetus is examined and the majority of serious congenital issues can be detected. However, some issues like major heart problems cannot be seen. Down’s syndrome can be detected in some cases but a nuchal translucency scan is more accurate at identifying this. The sex of the baby is also identifiable at this time should the parents wish to know. This scan can only be conducted until the twenty-second week of the pregnancy cycle.

Finally, a mother can have a foetal well being scan any time after the twenty-fourth week right until the end of the pregnancy cycle, although not many mothers have scans this late in the pregnancy. The foetal well being scan is used to determine the age, size and weight of the foetus in the third and final trimester. The foetal well being scan can also measure the position of the baby in the womb and the amount of fluid surrounding the baby; these are very helpful things to know before the baby is born as it can reduce the risk of unexpected complications during labour.

This entry was posted in News, Obstetric

Tom Farrell

Written by Tom Farrell

Tom Farrell works in both the NHS and private sector providing gynaecology, pregnancy ultrasound and maternity care clinics in the Jessop Wing (NHS) and BMI Thornbury & Claremont Hospital (Private sector) in Sheffield.

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