Consultant Obstetrician & Subspecialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine

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Mothers Experiences

Ultrasound

Blood Tests and Investigations

You will be offered one or two routine ultrasound scans in the first half of pregnancy (usually by 22 weeks). As with blood tests, it is up to you to decide whether you want any scans to be performed in your pregnancy. The scientific evidence is that ultrasound scanning during pregnancy is safe for mother and baby.

It is important to be aware of what the scans are intended for.

Most scans fall into one of three categories:

Reasons for Scans

Dating pregnancies. It is important to know the age of the baby in the womb so that we know how mature the fetus is.

Scan dates are more accurate than menstrual dates if done before 22 wks. This is because they look at the actual age of the fetus, whereas menstrual dates are based on the first day of the last menstrual period and assume that fertilisation has occurred 14 days later, which is not always the case. Please note also that most babies are NOT born on their actual due date, but during a 4 week period around it. Usually babies come when they are ready.

Early pregnancy ultrasound scan. it is ideal to offer an early scan at about 12-13+6 weeks, to confirm the pregnancy and the number of babies in the womb, and to calculate the date of delivery. Nuchal translucency may also be assessed at this time, as one method to screen for Down's syndrome.

18-22 week detailed scan. A detailed anomaly scan is usually offered at 18-22 weeks gestation. This is a good time to check for abnormalities of the head, spine, limbs, abdomen and heart of the baby. However, ultrasound will not identify all the problems and sometimes problems are suspected in normally developing babies. For a list of the most common anomalies and the chance of it being identified on ultrasound, see www.preg.info/scans

Fetal Cardiac Scans” Abnormlities of the fetal heart are the most common in pregnancy. They can be very difficult to diagnose. A fetal cardiac scan is part of the antenatal package we offer and is performed at about 23 weeks by Dr Frank Casey, a paediatric cardiologist and expert in scanning of the fetal heart.

Scans to check the baby's well-being later in pregnancy. An ultrasound scan can check what size the baby has reached at a particular point in pregnancy. The main measurement for this is the abdominal circumference, which includes the size of the liver (the main nutritional store of the growing baby) and the abdominal wall thickness (related to fat reserves). An assessment of the amount of amniotic fluid (liquor) around the baby is also important, as low liquor is linked to fetal growth restriction and can cause fetal distress. If the scan suggests that the baby may be small, Doppler flow studies can establish whether the baby is receiving sufficient blood flow with oxygen and nutrients through the placenta (afterbirth). Scans are sometimes also done to examine and identify the position of the placenta, which may have been low in the womb at an earlier scan. A low placenta increases the risk of heavy bleeding later in pregnancy.

Sex of the Baby Although the scan can sometimes tell whether the baby is a boy or girl, this is not always accurate.

3 an 4D Ultrasound:

3D and 4D (moving 3D) images of the baby may be achieve with the ultrasound facilities in 352. These scans are best achieved at around 26-29 weeks. These scans are presently more for fun and interest of the mum and dad to be than of significant medical value (but they are useful if earlier scans suggest for example abnormal facial features). Photographs and DVD images can be captured during the examination. For good images to be achieved good pools of amniotic fluid are required and the position of the fetus is important.

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