When you are pregnant, it’s not just your body that changes, but your mind too. The curiosity, excitement and the mix of emotions can overwhelm any expecting mother.

Along with it come questions like how many scans you should take during pregnancy, which pregnancy scan center you could go to, which fetal medical specialist you could consult, whether ultrasound scans safe for your growing fetus at all? and the list is endless. Do not panic, we understand.

If you are a new mommy-to-be and you are unsure of the number of ultrasound scans you need to take, then this blog gives you a fair idea of the ones you need to compulsorily take during pregnancy.

What is an ultrasound scan?

A high-frequency scan with sound waves, the ultrasound scan is used to examine your baby’s internal body structures, features, and growth.

The handheld scanner emits the sound waves from the vibrating crystal and translates the echoes into 2D or 3D or even 4D images on the monitor.

What is the purpose of your pregnancy scans?

Pregnancy ultrasound scans are necessary to determine how well you and your fetus are faring. While a majority of women give birth to a healthy baby, there are a few who face complications during their pregnancy.

Ultrasound scans help detect such complications early thereby enabling the doctor to begin necessary treatment quickly.

Pregnancy scan allows the fetal specialists detect the following;

  • To confirm if you are pregnant
  • To know the exact growth rate of your fetus
  • To detect abnormalities like Down Syndrome or other structural issues
  • To identify ectopic pregnancies (when the fertilized egg gets implanted outside the uterus, which when left to grow, can get dangerous)
  • To possibly prevent miscarriage
  • To identify other pregnancy complications such as molar pregnancies

Top Five Things You Need To Know About Pregnancy Scans

1. Are Ultrasound During Pregnancy Safe or Risky?

Any pregnant mother will have this question running on her mind. Decades worth of research and result suggest that pregnancy scans are painless and safe for both pregnant women and the unborn baby.

In some cases, when your obstetric ultrasound specialist feels the ultrasound test is not accurate, especially when there are any abnormalities, she could carry on to the next line of safe tests.

2. What Are The Scans To Be Taken During The First Trimester?

The first trimester is the first three months of your pregnancy. Remember, by the time you know you’re pregnant, you are already in the fifth or sixth week of your pregnancy and this first trimester scan should be taken between six and eight weeks.

Scans to be taken in 1st trimester

List of pregnancy scans to be taken during the first trimester are;

(i) A viability scan or the dating scan

The viability or the dating scan is a transvaginal scan that’s taken around the pelvic area with a bladder filled with water.

Sometimes this is often done as an internal transvaginal scan. Do not be worried, this internal scan is harmless.

This scan helps you to determine;

  • The viability of being pregnant exact gestational age of the pregnancy
  • The number of embryos presents whether the progress of the pregnancy is normal or not
  • The viability scan is important; If you have had previous miscarriages, if you have undergone pain or bleeding, or have had ectopic pregnancies in your past history

(ii) NT or the Nuchal Translucency Scan

The Nuchal Translucency Scan is commonly taken between the 9th to 11th weeks of pregnancy. This can be done alone or together with your Dating scan. Your doctor might suggest this to you.

This first-trimester ultrasound screening is done through your abdomen region by inserting a probe into the vaginal region and helps determine if your baby has risks of chromosomal abnormality.

This is done by measuring the nuchal translucency clear tissue behind your baby’s neck.

While it is not common for a growing fetus to have this clear tissue at its neck, too much of it can indicate Down Syndrome or in some chromosome abnormalities including Edwards syndrome or Patau syndrome (possibly fatal sickness due to which babies die in the first year of their birth).

Your doctor might accompany this with a blood test and combine the results of the NT scan and the blood test to get an accurate picture of the risk of a chromosomal abnormality.

The NT scan helps you to determine;

  • To confirm your pregnancy is in the uterus, and that it’s not an ectopic pregnancy
  • To confirm the fetal heartbeat, which is usually visible from five and a half to six weeks
  • To make sure the gestational sac’s fetal pole and a yolk sac are well and aligned to the gestational period
  • To arrive at the estimated due date (EDD) based on gestational age
  • To confirm that the fetus is in the right position in the uterus
  • To ensure the number of fetuses, to identify multiple pregnancies

3. What Is the Anatomical Survey Scan or the 20th-week screening scan?

Definitely, an exciting part, this mid-pregnancy or the second trimester scan or the anomaly scan is taken between the 18th and 21st week of becoming pregnant and gives detail into your uterus and monitors your baby’s development of the entire organ systems and the physical structure.

Right from head to toe, this scan examines your baby’s heart, spinal cord, bones, kidneys, face, and abdomen. It observes where exactly your placenta is lying, whether it is close or over the cervix.

20th week screening scan

The placenta’s positioning may cause the placenta to bleed as a result of rupturing from the uterus, leading to preterm labor or miscarriage. So, your fetal specialist delves deep into these areas.

The scan checks whether there is too little or too much of amniotic fluid, which again could cause abnormalities.

The fetal specialist will also be able to determine your baby’s sex here but would not reveal it as it is against the law here in India.

The entire process of a mid-pregnancy scan usually takes around 30 minutes. Your fetal specialist diagnoses rare conditions including:

AnencephalyDiaphragmatic hernia

GastroschisisExomphalosOpen spina bifidaBilateral renal agenesisLethal skeletal dysplasiaEdwards’ syndrome (T18)Patau’s syndromeCleft lip (T13)Serious cardiac abnormalities

4. What Is The Third-Trimester Anomaly Scan Or The Fetal Growth Scan?

This routine procedure in the third trimester between the 28 and 32 weeks of your pregnancy helps observe the fetal well-being of your growing baby.

It measures the exact size of the baby’s head and leg, along with the abdominal circumference.

Based on your medical history, the fetal growth scan can take place twice, one at 28 weeks of pregnancy and then another one at 32 weeks.

5. What Does A Third-Trimester Growth Scan Detect?

The growth scan or the third-trimester scan can examine the following aspects of your baby; baby Measurements: including its head, abdominal muscles, and the length of the leg

Growth Scan Detects

Amniotic Fluid:

The certain amount of amniotic fluid that you are supposed to hold at this stage of pregnancy

Baby’s Heart Rate/Rhythm:

On average, the baby is to possess 120-180 beats per minute, which is observed at this stage.

Position of Placenta:

The exact position of the placenta is checked, including if it is placenta previa, a case where the placenta covers the mother’s cervix, which should not be the case.

Length of Cervix:

Unaddressed abnormalities could lead to premature labor, vaginal bleeding, and other complications.

Size of the Baby:

The EFW or the Estimated Fetal Weight is determined here

Blood Flow in the Umbilical Cord:

A doppler study will help detect the blood flow in the umbilical cord. This is helpful in determining the baby’s weight and well-being.

Position of the Baby:

Checks whether the baby is in a cephalic or the head-down position or the breech position with buttocks down and head top of the uterus, or the transverse position with the baby positioned sideways. This helps determine the gestation period.

The Uterus:

Will be observed for uterine fibroids, which could cause placental abruption, pain, preterm delivery. If the bleeding continues the fetal specialist might consider your case for a cesarean section.

Besides, the scan also helps determine;

  • Multiple Pregnancy, whether you have twins or triplets.
  • The size and well-being of your baby.
  • Mothers with high blood pressure or diabetes are given greater care here as their conditions may influence the baby inside.
  • Any symptoms of complications including reduced fetal movement, pain, or bleeding
  • Previous abnormalities detected in your last anatomical scan.
  • A Placental Review and assesses the position of the baby

Our concluding thoughts as you move on…

The 36 weeks of pregnancy are going to keep you super busy. You may have to schedule numerous visits with your doctor, follow them up, diligently take up the scans, and a lot more. Remember, you cannot miss those pregnancy scans and pregnancy checkups.

Also do not panic, an ultrasound scan is not going to harm your little one inside with any side effects. When performed by a fetal medical expert, you will get valuable information to make informed decisions. Best of luck!

Photo Credits : todaysparent.

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