What To Expect At An Ultra Sound Examination.

Ultrasound scans are typically performed twice throughout a standard pregnancy, once at 12 weeks and again at 20 weeks. Mine were performed at the ultrasound department of my local hospital- the same hospital I chose to give birth at.

Stages of an Ultrasound Scan

⇨ Important: you will be asked to fill your bladder prior to your appointment. This aids a clearer view of your baby.

⇨ Checking in at reception- you will have to report to reception to let them know you have arrived, you will then be sent to a waiting area where you will be called forward when it's time for your scan.

⇨ The room will be quite dark with a bed for you to lay on and a seat at the side for if someone is accompanying you. You will be asked to lay on your back.

⇨ The sonographer will then ask you to lift your top to expose your bump. They will tuck some paper down the top of your trousers to protect your clothing from the ultrasound gel.

⇨ The ultrasound gel is applied to your stomach- at my scans the gel was warmed prior to application.

⇨ The sonographer will then apply a handheld device to your stomach. They will move it around in order to conduct their examination. Some sonographers will work in silence whereas others may describe what they are looking for. You can ask questions.

⇨ When the scan is finished you will be given some paper to wipe away the ultrasound gel before getting dressed.

⇨ You maybe asked to wait in the waiting area for a report to then take to pregnancy assessment unit or you maybe able to leave straight away. You can ask the sonographer if you are unsure.

    Internal Scans

    In the early stages of pregnancy (usually before 12 weeks) the sonographer may not be able to see what is required via the handheld device. In this instance you maybe offered an internal scan. This involves a wand being inserted into the vagina. You will need to empty your bladder prior to the scan being conducted. This type of scan can be uncomfortable but is not supposed to be painful. Lubricant will be applied to the wand in order to make it as comfortable as possible.

    What to expect from specific scans

    12 week- This scan is called your dating scan and is predominately done to assess how far into your pregnancy you are. The sonographer will measure your fetus to determine it's gestational age. They will also check for a visible heartbeat. You may not get the opportunity to hear the heartbeat at this point. You will be able to get pictures of your baby.

    20 week- This scan is called your anomaly scan and is used to assess the health of your baby and to highlight any potential issues. You can also find out the gender of your child if you wish (we didn't!). You can get pictures of your baby at this scan.

    Growth Scans- Growth scans follow the same procedure as regular ultrasounds. You are referred for growth scans by your midwife if your fundal measurements seem irregular or are unexpectedly small or large. Growth scans are used to check the growth of your baby and look for any reasons that may cause your measurements to be unusual. This kind of scan tends to be less 'chatty' and over quickly. The sonographer focuses on getting the required measurements. You are usually referred to the assessment unit within the hospital immediately following your scan to discuss the results. You aren't typically offered pictures from growth scans.

    What happens when it's bad news?

    Sadly not all ultrasounds are positive experiences. Whilst it's exciting to see your baby the scans are performed to check for abnormalities and potential problems. My first experience of an ultrasound scan was very sad. It happened at 6 weeks when I had begun to bleed. Sadly the sonographer couldn't see the baby or find a heartbeat. All she could see was the masses of blood contained within my uterus- it was later determined that the baby had detached from my uterus and I was in the process of miscarrying. The sonographer was very sympathetic and kind when explaining what she could see. I was then referred to the early pregnancy assessment unit for further help. There is no advice I can offer for when bad news happens but be assured that the sonographer has a duty of care and will endeavour to deliver the news in an appropriate manner. If you feel they haven't done this then please report it.

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