The different scans offered during pregnancy
You’ve just found out you are pregnant and want to see your little bubba on the big screen. So, what are the different ultrasounds during pregnancy and what do they look for?
Firstly, the number of scans that you’ll receive automatically during pregnancy will depend on your pregnancy care options in your local area and the type of care provider that you choose to go with. Community midwifery, private midwifery, GP Shared Care, Birth Centre Midwifery and going with a Private Obstetrician all provide care during pregnancy, but some will provide more scans than others. You can learn more about the different types of pregnancy care here.
What is an ultrasound?
Ultrasounds are a procedure that use soundwaves to create images of your baby while it is growing in your uterus. A probe (transducer) is placed on your skin and moved around your belly with the assistance of gel placed on your tummy. Sound wave pulses (that do not hurt your baby) are sent from the probe to your baby which create echoes that are turned into images by a computer. These images are displayed on a monitor.
Sometimes, particularly early on in a pregnancy when the foetus is small, your Dr might recommend a transvaginal ultrasound in order to get better pictures of your baby. This type of ultrasound inserts the probe into your vagina. Transvaginal ultrasounds should not hurt you or the baby and will only be done with your prior consent.
Ultrasounds are performed during pregnancy for many reasons including to confirm in the early stages of pregnancy to look for multiple pregnancies (twins or triplets), confirming that your pregnancy is viable, estimating your due date, checking the development of the baby’s organs and other structures, confirming baby’s position in your uterus, assessing the length of your cervix and the location of your placenta as well as assessing your baby’s growth, size and wellbeing.
Regardless of the care option that you choose for your pregnancy, there are some scans that are consistent across all pregnancy care in Australia, these include:
Nuchal translucency scan
Commonly referred to as the 12-week scan, the nuchal translucency scan is often performed at 12 weeks pregnancy, but can be done anytime between 11 and 13 weeks, 6 days. This scan assesses your baby’s risk of chromosomal abnormalities. The 12-week scan also checks your baby’s estimate due date, growth and the structural and physical development of your baby.
Also known as a fetal anomaly scan, the morphology scan is an ultrasound performed between 18-22 weeks gestation. This scan checks your baby’s organs, looking particularly at their growth and structure. This scan also checks your baby’s heart rate and rhythm, the position of your placenta and checks to see that your cervix is still long and closed.
Based on baby’s growth and development at this scan, your baby’s gestational age, size and weight will be estimated.
Depending on the position your baby is lying in during this scan, the morphology scan may also be able to reveal the sex of your baby – but only if you request to be told.
Growth & Wellbeing scans
In the third trimester, some women will be offered a growth or well-being scan. This can is not routinely offered to all expectant mothers, but is likely to be offered if you have vaginal fluid loss, a low-lying placenta, begin to have premature contractions or pain in your abdomen, have had a small baby in the past, suffer from high blood pressure, have diabetes or are carrying multiples.
This can can be used to assess fetal growth/size, the amount of amniotic fluid you are carrying, blood flow patterns, fetal well-being and the location of your placenta.
Where can I receive my ultrasounds?
The type of care that you choose to go with for your pregnancy will impact how and where you receive your ultrasounds. Some medical specialists, like obstetricians, have specialist training and can carry out ultrasounds in their offices. For other methods of pregnancy care your Dr may refer you to an imaging clinic where a sonographer will perform your scans. You can also request to have your ultrasounds performed in a hospital.