What To Expect at Your 12 Week Scan
You will have visited your midwife for a booking in appointment at some point after you turned 9 week’s pregnant. It can be a long wait from finding out your happy news to actually seeing someone professional and still, after all that, you may come away feeling a little deflated and as if you are none the wiser.
In those early weeks, especially if you are experiencing very little in the form of pregnancy symptoms, it can almost feel like you’ve dreamed up the whole thing. While your midwife will take your blood pressure, bloods and ask you questions about your lifestyle it is too early for her to actually examine your tummy and give you any reassurance that there IS a baby in there. Because of this it’s often the 12 week scan that we finally get the physical confirmation that indeed a little baby is growing.
The 12 week scan, also known as the dating scan, is offered to us around the time that marks 12 weeks from the first day of our last period and is a very exciting time. A first glimpse of your baby is very precious so what can you expect from the experience?
How to prepare?
· Drink a glass of water
If you drink water about an hour before the scan it will allow the sonographer to see the baby more easily as it pushes the uterus into a more visible position. It will also serve you well for the urine sample you will be asked to give after the scan – remember not to drink too much though or you may be hopping around the waiting room!
· Take something to entertain yourself
You will be given an appointment time of course but remember they may be running behind and putting a time on this is impossible. If you are one of the first appointments of the day you are more likely to be seen on time but otherwise we recommend taking a book or something else to keep you entertained as it may be a long wait.
· Take with you enough change for parking and pictures
You will need to pay (roughly £4) for your scan picture so take with you enough cash (often required in pound coins) so that you don’t miss out. There will also be hospital parking to pay for so being prepared with the right money is advisable.
Where will you go?
· Your appointment will likely be at your local hospital
You will be given an appointment at your local hospital to visit a sonographer and usually, visit with a consultant afterwards. So that you arrive on time it might be worth viewing a map of the hospital so that you go directly to the right department and can park in the closest area.
What will happen?
· A cold tummy
When you have your scan the sonographer will apply gel to your tummy which will allow her to rub the transducer hand held machine over your abdomen more easily. This is often cold to the skin and can make you feel a little uncomfortable but as soon as you see your baby on the screen this will soon be forgotten.
· A friend to hold your hand
Your partner, friend or family member will be able to come into the scan with you and while you lie on a bed with the sonographer one side, they will be asked to sit on the other side of you. This will give them access to view the screen and be close enough to hold your hand.
· Pressure and discomfort
It may feel a touch uncomfortable as the sonographer presses hard on your abdomen in order to get a better look. If the baby is not in the right place, your womb is deep or you are overweight it may be that the sonographer has to give you a vaginal scan instead. This will allow a closer look at the baby.
What is the sonographer looking for?
· A heartbeat
The first thing a sonographer will look for is the heartbeat of your baby. You will be able to watch the screen and see this happening also.
The sonographer will be able to use measurements and observations to decide a more exact day to pin point for your due date. Usually this won’t differ too much from the date given to you by your midwife at the booking in appointment but whereas she will only be working from the date you gave her as the first day of your last period, this will be a little more accurate. Often a few dates either side of the first date you’ve been advised can be expected.
The baby’s anatomy is looked at in as much detail as possible at this stage. The skull and brain will be observed as well as the arms, legs, heart and all other organs. The sonographer will take some time looking and measuring and may seem quiet; don’t let this worry you, he or she is doing their job and concentrating which is what we want them to do.
· Nuchal translucency
This measures the fluid at the back of your baby’s neck to indicate a likelihood of Down’s syndrome. This measurement will be combined with information from your blood to give you a percentage of likelihood which will be sent to you around a week after the scan. You can ask your sonographer how the measurement looks and while he or she may be able to reassure you on this side of the test, it is not a clear indication and the full result will need to be read.
What if there is a problem?
If the sonographer is worried about any element of your scan he or she will refer you immediately to a fetal medicine consultant for further tests and a plan as to how to move forward with your pregnancy will be formulated.
Is a scan dangerous?
There is no medical evidence to show that scanning the baby will pose a risk.
When do I have my next appointment?
Your next appointment will be with your midwife at around 16 weeks gestation and your next scan, the anomaly scan, will be at 20 weeks. The 20 week scan is where you can expect to find out the gender of your baby if you would like.
With a 12 week scan looming it can feel like a worrying time but staying as calm as possible is best for you and best for baby. This is the moment you will see your baby for the first time and afterwards, when you are home with your picture to hand, you may feel it is the right time to make your pregnancy announcement and tell your loved ones the news you have been hiding for all those weeks. Congratulations mummy!