Dating scans in pregnancy

Ultrasound scans use sound waves to create a picture of the baby in the womb. Most women have one or more ultrasound scans during pregnancy.

The two scans routinely offered during pregnancy are the nuchal scan and the anatomy scan. Sometimes other scans are performed earlier or later in pregnancy to check the growth of the baby, the position of the baby or the placenta, or for other reasons.

A baby and heartbeat can be seen on the scan after 6 weeks. Before 6 weeks it is not always possible to see the baby as it is too small. You will be offered a scan between 11 and 14 weeks' gestation. The scan result is used to calculate the chance of a baby having a problem, such as Down syndrome, but the scan will check for twins and is also a very good way of calculating when a baby is due. Many important developmental problems can be seen with a scan at this stage.

Your pregnancy and baby guide

Placenta previa where the placenta is covering the cervix can be diagnosed during the anatomy scan, but as the baby develops and the uterus gets bigger, the placenta usually moves away from the cervix. It is usually not possible to know if the placenta has moved far enough for a normal birth until 32 weeks and sometimes even later. You may be offered additional scans at this stage.

The sonographer usually will explain everything to you as he or she performs the scan. At this scan, you can find out what sex your baby is — although some parents prefer to wait until the baby is born. Not all babies are born the same size, but some babies are smaller than they should be. These babies can have problems during labour and sometimes need to be born early.

What is the purpose of the dating scan?

Other babies are too big, especially if the mother has diabetes. To check the growth of the baby it is necessary to do two scans a couple of weeks or more apart. You need to wait a couple of weeks between scans because babies do not grow enough in only a few days to be able to accurately measure the difference.


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You will get a hospital appointment with a sonographer for your scan. How long will the scan take? But it might take longer if your baby is lying in an awkward position.

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What happens during the week scan? The gel makes sure there is good contact between your skin and the device. The sonographer will tuck tissue paper around you to protect your clothing from the gel.

Common tests & procedures

A black and white image of your baby will appear on the ultrasound screen, which the sonographer will position so they get a good view. You might be offered a vaginal scan instead, if your womb is sitting very deep in your pelvis, or if you are overweight. This type of scan will allow the sonographer to get closer to your baby. What happens if a problem is found at the week scan? The pregnancy myths that hint at your baby's gender: Related content by tag: Your Guide to Every Pregnancy Scan Each pregnancy ultrasound scan is pretty exciting you get to see your baby and slightly scary just what will you see?

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