When you are pregnant, you’re offered two, or at the most, three, ultrasound pregnancy scans on the NHS. The number and timing of the scans seem to vary depending on which area you live in and your age, but as a general rule you will have a scan at about 12 weeks (a nuchal scan or dating scan), and another at around 20 weeks (a mid-trimester or anomaly scan). At this second scan, you may be able to find out whether you’re having a girl or boy.
This article on private pregnancy ultrasound baby scans is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Remember to tell the sonographer straight away if you don’t want to know. Also, some hospitals may have a policy not to tell parents the sex of the baby, so it’s best to check with them before your pregnancy scan, and if you’re keen to know book with another hospital. Remember also that there’s no guarantee the sonographer will be able to say for certain as sometimes babies lie in a position where it’s impossible to tell.
What is a pregnancy scan?
Pregnancy scans are performed using an ultrasound machine. This is a sensor, like a microphone, attached to a computer and monitor. Using sound waves is it completely non-invasive – they just put some gel and the sensor on the outside of your stomach and you can watch the pictures on a monitor. Sometimes, very early on in the pregnancy (less than eight weeks) you might be scanned using an internal ultrasound machine. A small probe is inserted into the vagina and the images it creates are sent to a screen where you can see the baby. Both types of scanning methods are painless and safe.
If you develop complications or have a multiple pregnancy you might be offered extra scans. However, if your pregnancy is normal and you want to see your baby more often, you can have a private pregnancy scan any time you like. This can give great peace of mind, and allows you to create even more of a bond with your unborn child.
Expectant parents often want to see their developing baby much more often that the two standard NHS pregnancy scans allow them. You can book to have a private baby scan with anywhere that offers them and at any time convenient to you, but many people choose one of the following types of scan:
- Early pregnancy viability scan (7-11 weeks) - If you’re over 40 years of age, or you think you might be at risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, or if you’ve had vaginal bleeding, it’s important to have this scan.
- Nuchal translucency scan (11-13 weeks) - If you’re over 30 years old, or your doctor has calculated that you have a relatively high risk of having a baby with an abnormality, you should have this scan. You may also be offered a blood test.
- Sexing scan (13-26 weeks) - If you would like to know the sex of your baby you should have this scan.
- Anomaly scan (20 weeks) - A more detailed scan to check your baby is growing normally and there are no major problems with its development. You can also find out the sex.
- Growth and foetal well-being scan (27 – 40 weeks) - A scan to reassure parents that everything is fine with the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. Birth weight can be estimated.
Why should I have it?
There is no need to have a private ultrasound baby scan unless you want one. Many prospective parents just want peace of mind, and to see their baby, or they might be concerned about a specific issue.
What will the scans tell me?
- Early pregnancy viability scan:
- Confirms a viable pregnancy
- Confirms the presence of a heartbeat
- Measures the crown-rump length or gestational age
- Confirms molar or ectopic pregnancies
- Establishes whether there is abnormal gestation or any internal bleeding
- Nuchal translucency scan:
- Diagnoses foetal malformation
- Assesses the chances of Down Syndrome
- Looks for any structural abnormalities
- Confirms a multiple pregnancy
- Verifies dates and growth
- Identifies hydramnios or oligohydramnios – excessive or reduced levels of amniotic fluid
- Evaluation of foetal well-being
- Anomaly scan:
- Identifies placental location
- Can identify the sex of the baby
- Checks for congenital malformations
- Observes foetal presentation
- Observes foetal movements
- Identifies uterine and pelvic abnormalities in the mother
- Growth and foetal well-being scan:
- Baby is measured and its weight calculated
- Checks blood flow in the umbilical cord
- Checks amniotic fluid
- Establishes position of the placenta
- Can identify the sex of the baby
3D/4D scans (26 – 32 weeks)
A 3D/4D scan shows the baby in three dimensions, in other words as a rounded being rather than a flat picture. It can also show your baby moving in real time. It’s possible to make out facial characteristics - parents love to see their baby’s face at the 3D scan. You can also see your baby moving during a 4D scan. Sometimes it is possible to record your baby yawning or stretching.