It’s time to clap your eyes on that baby for the first time and it’s the most exciting pregnancy milestone yet. So just what does happen at the 12-week scan?
Can you only have your 12-week scan at 12 weeks?
Your 12-week scan can take place any time between 11 and 13 weeks. It’s amazing to think that at this point, your baby is fully formed. So you can see all his organs, muscles, limbs and bones are in place, and the sex organs are well developed.
Can I ask if I'm having a boy or a girl?
The 12 week scan is usually just about determining whether your baby is healthy and growing as it should be. Although the sex organs are well developed, it's usually too soon to see them at 12 weeks. Some people believe in nub theory, which suggests you can determine the gender of your baby from that first ultrasound photo.
Getting ready for your 12-week scan
First things first, keep those nerves in check. We know how exciting/terrifying the whole thing is, but too much anxiety and you’ll be jumping off the bed as soon as the gel touches your belly (it’s very cold).
In order to create a clear view of your baby, it’s worth drinking a pint of water an hour before the scan.
‘This pushes the uterus into a better position so we can see the baby more easily,’ says Dean Meredith who is a Sonographer at The Portland Hospital, London. But don’t overdo it – we all know how often you need to pee these days.
Where do you go for your 12-week scan?
You will get a hospital appointment with a sonographer for your scan.
How long will the scan take?
12-week scans normally take between 15 and 30 minutes. It might take longer if your baby is lying in an awkward position.
It’s a good idea to have someone with you for the scan, whether it’s your partner, mum, or a friend.
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What happens during the 12-week scan?
The sonographer will put some gel on your tummy, and will move a hand-held transducer device over your skin. 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.
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 will feel some pressure, but it shouldn’t be painful.
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 is the sonographer looking for at 12 weeks?
The 12-week scan is the first in depth look at your growing baby and assesses the early development in the womb.
‘The first thing we do is look and listen for the heartbeat. The CRL is measured to check the date of the pregnancy and make sure it is in the 45 to 84mm range,’ explains Dean. ‘We then look at the anatomy of the baby as far as possible at this early stage. This includes the skull, the brain, that there are two arms, two legs, the heart, stomach, bowel, pelvis and bladder.’
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The 12-week scan is the first in depth look at your growing baby and assesses the early development in the womb
‘Current guidelines for the 12-week scan is undertaken alongside the Nuchal scan or Down’s screening,’ says Dean. The 12-week scan will also check the location of your placenta to ensure placenta praevia is not a concern.
What happens if a problem is found at the 12-week scan?
The 12-week scan is the first opportunity for your baby to be examined for any abnormalities that could indicate a problem with his development. If a problem is spotted you’ll be to referred to a fetal medicine consultant for confirmation of the findings with a view to undergo further testing and recommendations for the remainder of the pregnancy.
There’s no evidence to suggest scans offer any risk to your pregnancy and offer you those first precious glimpses of your unborn baby and give you the peace of mind that your baby’s development is as it should be.
When will you have another scan?
After your 12-week scan, your next ultrasound probably won't be until you're 20 weeks' pregnant, when you have your anomaly scan. This can also be a chance to find out if you're having a boy or girl if you want.