Ultrasound scans give you a picture of how your baby’s developing in your womb. As they have no side-effects on either you or your baby, you can safely get a scan at any stage during your pregnancy.
If you’re a first-time mother, you might have some questions about the scans you get during pregnancy. So we put this short guide together. We’ll explain how scans work, how many you need, how long they take, and what you can expect from them.
Who Will Perform My Ultrasound Scans?
The healthcare specialist who gives you a scan is known as a sonographer. They perform their scan in a dimly lit room. This is just so that they can get good images of your baby.
What Happens During an Ultrasound Scan?
During your scan, you’ll lie on your back and pull up your top to reveal your stomach. The sonographer will spread ultrasound gel on your stomach. This ensures there’s the best possible contact between their ultrasound machine and your skin.
The sonographer will then pass a probe over your stomach, which will use sound waves to build a picture of your baby in your womb.
How Long Does an Ultrasound Scan Take?
The scan shouldn’t take any longer than 30 minutes. But it may take longer if your baby’s moving around a lot, or if they’re lying in an awkward position, as this will make it harder for the sonographer to get a good image!
How Many Scans During Pregnancy in the UK?
The NHS will offer you two scans as standard during your pregnancy:
- Your first scan. Sometimes called the “dating scan”, this usually happens at 10 to 14 weeks into your pregnancy. During this scan, the sonographer will take certain measurements of your baby in order to give you an estimated due date.
- Your second scan. Sometimes called the “mid-pregnancy scan”, this one usually takes place between 18 and 21 weeks of your pregnancy. This is just to check how your baby’s developing, and to catch any potential issues before they become problems.
It’s also during the second scan that you can learn your baby’s sex. Not all hospitals offer this service though, and it’s not always possible for a sonographer to be 100% certain. So speak to your doctor, midwife or sonographer before the scan for more information.
When Will I Need More Scans During Pregnancy?
Most women will only have two scans during their pregnancy. But depending on your health, and your baby’s health, the NHS might offer you more than two scans.
Can I Ask For More Scans?
You can also request more than two scans should you want an update on how things are going. You’ll most likely have to go to a private clinic for any extra scans beyond the two the NHS offers. Going private means you’ll be able to get a 3D or 4D ultrasound scan for an even more detailed image of your growing baby. NHS scans will only give you a 2D black and white image.
Just remember that an ultrasound scan is a serious medical examination. In the majority of cases it can be a joyful experience, and a chance for new parents to see their baby for the very first time. But a pregnancy scan can also reveal certain medical conditions in you or your baby. These might lead to further procedures and, potentially, some difficult decisions.
Do I Have to Have Any Pregnancy Scans?
Not if you don’t want to! The NHS will offer you pregnancy scans, but it’s completely up to you whether or not you go ahead with them. And turning down the scans will not affect the rest of your antenatal care.
Preparing For Your Baby’s Arrival
It probably feels like you have a million different things to sort before your baby arrives. The good news is that you’re by no means alone – there’s lots of support out there if you need it.
Also, you don’t have to do everything at once.
When it comes to baby stuff, for example, you can spread things out so that you buy the things you need only when you need them. Head here to read our complete guide to when you should start buying baby stuff.