Mother and Baby

12 weeks pregnant ultrasound: what to expect

Section: Scans & Tests
Time For Your 12-Week Scan: What To Expect

It’s time to clap your eyes on that baby for the first time and it’s the most exciting pregnancy milestone yet. So what exactly happens at the 12-week ultrasound?

In this article skip to: 

Can you only have your 12-week scan at 12 weeks?

At 12 weeks pregnant, you will be offered an ultrasound scan. 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.

The 2D image from the scan allows the sonographer to see your baby and work out baby's gestational age and when they're due, so you'll be given an idea of baby's due date which is why it is often called a dating scan! 

At your 12-week pregnancy ultrasound, you can see all his organs, muscles, limbs and bones are in place, and the sex organs are well developed too.

Will I find out the sex of my baby at 12 weeks?

The 12-week scan is usually just about determining whether your baby is healthy and growing as it should be and although the sex organs are well developed, it's usually too soon to see them at 12 weeks.

Some people however believe in nub theory, which suggests you can determine the gender of your baby from that first ultrasound photo by looking out for the angle of the genital nub on your baby. If it is angled away from the body it indicates you're having a boy and if it is horizontal to the spinal cord it indicates you're having a girl. 

Read more: Check out our Chinese Gender Predictor

Getting ready for your 12-week scan

First things first, keep those nerves in check. We know how exciting/terrifying the whole thing is that you'll finally find out an estimated date of delivery, 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 having a full bladder and 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, a Sonographer at The Portland Hospital, London. But don’t overdo it – we all know how often you need to pee these days.

It's also worth deciding who you want to take to your scan. In most cases, you'll want your partner with you but if this isn't the case, consider taking a friend or family member. The support is invaluable. 

Where do you go for your 12-week scan?

The NHS offers all pregnant women an ultrasound scan between the 10 and 14-week mark which usually ends up taking place at 12 weeks. 

You will get a hospital appointment with a sonographer for your scan by letter. In the letter, there will be instructions on where to go and what is required. 

How long will the scan take? 

12-week scans normally take between 15 and 30 minutes, but it might take longer if your baby is lying in an awkward position. 

What happens during the 12-week scan?

  • You'll first be invited into a private room and asked to lie down on the bed. 
  • The sonographer will then ask you to expose your little bump so it's a good idea to wear comfortable clothes that are easy to pull up. 
  • 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 does the 12-week scan reveal?

The 12-week scan is the first in-depth look at your growing baby and assesses the early development in the womb. Here's what else you should learn:

  • Due date - Although you may already have a pretty good idea of roughly when you'll be meeting your baby, at your 12 weeks pregnant ultrasound you'll officially be given a due date. Eek! 
  • How many babies you're having - Yep, you'll be finding out just how many babies are growing away in there. What to buy if you’re having twins.
  • The heartbeat - Understandably one of the most nerve wracking parts for any parents-to-be. 'The Crown Rump Length (CRL) is measured to check the date of the pregnancy and make sure it is in the 45 to 84mm range,’ explains Dean.
  • The anatomy - Your sonographer will make sure everything will be developing as it should. 'This includes the skull, the brain, the umbilical cord, the limb, the heart, stomach, bowel, pelvis, and bladder,’ says Dean.
  • Your baby's NT or nuchal translucency - Also called a combined test, this is a specialised routine ultrasound performed at the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The nuchal translucency measures the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck, combined with a blood test, and gives you an indication of the possibility of Down’s syndrome. ‘Current guidelines for the 12-week scan is that it is undertaken alongside the Nuchal scan or Down’s screening,’ says Dean. You will not be offered the combined screening test if your dating scan happens after 14 weeks. Instead, you'll be offered another blood test between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy to screen for your chance of having a baby with Down's syndrome. This test is not quite as accurate as the combined test.
  • 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 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 the next scan be? 

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 choose to know.

The pregnancy myths that hint at your baby's gender: 

It might be too soon to see on the scan, but take a look at these pregnancy myths that hint at your little one's gender - 

Expand Image

1) Low heartbeat

If your baby’s heartbeat is lower than 140 beats per minute, you could be having a little boy. 
Expand Image

2) You’re moodier than normal

Feeling grumpy and down in the dumps? It could mean you’re pregnant with a girl. 
Expand Image

3) Sleeping on your left side

Do you keep finding you wake up on your left side? It’s another sign you’re having a boy.
Expand Image

4) Your skin is soft

Being pregnant with a girl could mean you’ve finally got that baby soft skin you’ve always wanted. 
Expand Image

5) You’re carrying low

If someone tells you you’re ‘carrying low’, it means your bump is lower and your baby lying closer to the pelvis – a sign that some believe suggests your baby’s a boy… 
Expand Image

6) You’re carrying high

… while carrying high could be a sign that you’re having a little girl. 
Expand Image

7) No morning sickness

If this is the case, then you’re very lucky!
Expand Image

8) Bad morning sickness

This isn’t at all pleasant but might mean that you’ll soon have a mini me. 
Expand Image

9) Glossier hair

Got luxurious locks and all-round a better mane than you’ve ever had in your life? It could be a sign that you’ll have a son.
Expand Image

10) Thin hair

​Hair lacking in volume? Apparently, it’s an indication that you’re pregnant with a daughter. 
Expand Image

11) Hairier legs

Found yourself reaching for the razor more frequently? It could mean you need to start thinking of some baby boy's names.
Expand Image

12) Acne

One gender myth says that bad, spotty skin could mean you’re having a girl. 
Expand Image

13) Frequent headaches

Some believe that suffering from more headaches during pregnancy than normal is a sign that you’re expecting a boy.
Expand Image

14) Carrying weight in your hips and rear

Suddenly found yourself with a more pronounced derrière? And more rounded hips? It might mean you need to paint the nursery pink.
Expand Image

15) You’ve got cold feet

A strange one, but having chilly feet could indicate that you’re pregnant with a son. We’re not quite sure why…
Expand Image

16) No pregnancy ‘glow’

While everyone’s talked about that ah-mazing pregnancy glow you’re bound to experience, you still haven’t come across it. Which could signal that you’re having a baby girl. 
Expand Image

17) You crave salty foods

Hankering after cheese, crisps and really salty meats is another signal that you’re carrying a boy. 
Expand Image

18) You crave sweet things

If you’re eating even more sugary treats than usual then you could have a girl. We reckon it’s a good excuse to indulge a little during your pregnancy. 
Expand Image

19) Your partner has put on weight during your pregnancy

This has to be the strangest of the lot. We reckon your partner packing on the pounds just means that he’s been having one too many sweet treats – but some think it could mean a baby boy is on the way.
Expand Image

20) Your bump looks like a watermelon

Is this a compliment? You be the judge.
Expand Image

21) If you ate a high calorie diet before you got pregnant

If you had a low-calorie diet and you didn’t have much of an appetite, you’re having a girl. 
Expand Image

22) Holding a ring on a piece of string over your belly and it moves in a circle

Tie a ring you wear every day to a length of cotton thread and hold it above your bump - moving in a circle means you’re having a girl, while swinging side to side means you’re having a boy. However, there’s some debate over which action signifies which gender. If you live in America, you’re more likely to believe the opposite!
Expand Image

23) If you conceived in winter

If you fell pregnant in the summer, you’re having a baby girl. If you conceive in spring or autumn, there’s an equal chance of having a boy or girl. 
Expand Image

24) If someone asks you to hold your hands out in front of you, and you hold them palms facing up

If you hold them out palms facing downwards, you’re having a boy. 
Expand Image

25) If you pick up a key and hold it by its round upper section, you’re having a boy

If you pick the key up by its thinner lower section, it’s a girl. 
Expand Image

26) When you lie down, your baby doesn’t wriggle around too much

If your little one isn't wriggling round much when you're lying on the sofa, you might have a little mini-me on the way. If your baby is a little wriggler when you lie down, it’s a boy!

Read more popular articles


Having worked across a variety of magazines, on topics from food to travel to horses, Stephanie now works as a Digital Writer for Mother&Baby online. 

She loves taking her lurcher puppy Moss for long walks in the country, and spending time with her niece and two nephews. In her spare time she writes fiction books and enjoys baking (her signature bake is lemon drizzle cake).

Other contributors

Emily Thorpe - Digital Writer

Related Content

Related content:

You May Also Like