From the moment you know you’re pregnant, you’ll be counting down the days until you can see your little baby at your first scan. While most women have their first scan at 12 weeks pregnant, some women are asked to have an early scan at 8 weeks of pregnancy and some mums choose to have an early scan done privately.
There are a number of reasons you might be offered an early scan:
If you’ve experienced any bleeding
Had certain types of fertility treatment
Had recurrent miscarriages
Previously experienced an ectopic pregnancy
If you’ve experienced any of these, you may be offered an early pregnancy scan on the NHS.
How early can an early scan take place?
Although early scans can be done at the 6 week mark, it’s often best to wait until the 7 week or 8 week point so that the heartbeat can be seen more clearly. If you go along for your scan at 6 weeks, it’s likely you’ll be called back for a second scan.
Can I request an early scan?
Yes, if it’s for medical reasons, you can request an early scan. If you feel like something isn’t right and it’s concerning you, or you’ve experienced any bleeding, you can request to have an early scan. Just talk to your doctor or midwife about your concerns and they should refer you for a scan.
What will happen at the scan?
With many early scans, it’ll likely be an internal trans vaginal scan but it can sometimes be an abdominal scan too. Your sonographer may first try an abdominal scan and if they’re struggling to see anything, they’ll try an internal scan. As with most abdominal scans, it’s likely you will be asked to go along with a full bladder so keep this in mind on the day of your appointment.
What will I be able to see during an early pregnancy scan?
Although your baby is only small during these early stages of pregnancy, they are growing and developing at a very fast rate. Depending on the number of weeks gestation, you’ll see very different things.
6 weeks - This is the earliest point your baby’s heartbeat can be detected and at this point, they’ll measure at a tiny 0.5mm.
7 weeks - You little one will have a heartbeat of around 160 beats per minute at this point and be around 1cm in length.
8 weeks - You might be able to make out a head and body shape at this point and your baby will measure around 1.6cm in length.
9 weeks - This is where you should be able to make out your baby’s arms and legs, head and body, and they’re starting to look like a proper little baby.
10 weeks - At the 10 week mark, you may be able to see your baby making some movements inside you.
How to book a private scan
Waiting for that first 12 week scan can feel like an eternity for pregnant women, especially if you found out about your pregnancy early on. If you haven’t experienced any medical issues but you’re feeling quite anxious about your pregnancy, you can always go private if it’s something you can afford.
If you’re feeling particularly anxious, but want to avoid paying for a private test, it might be worth talking with your midwife about your concerns and worries to put your mind at rest before booking yourself a private appointment.
If you think a private scan is the path for you, there are a number of different companies that provide this service. Before you book, do your research, check reviews and recommendations and have a good discussion with the clinic about what experience the sonographers have and what kind of scan they are qualified to do.
The cost of these really vary depending on the company. As a guide, it’s likely to cost over £100 for an early scan.
Mum's share their experience of early scans
Jade Alsop: We had early pregnancy scans with both my pregnancies. My first was IVF so we had a scan around 8 weeks then we were discharged from the clinic. I had previously had 2 losses (both losses were IVF pregnancies and never made it past 8 weeks) so that was a big relief, we then paid privately for another scan at 10 weeks and then had our NHS one at 12 weeks.
I then fell pregnant naturally when my firstborn was 18 months (complete shock) and my cycles were very irregular - I think that cycle was around 80 days and I only tested because I had sore boobs. I wasn’t sure how far gone I was but knew I wasn’t past 5/6 weeks because I had had an MRI scan 8 weeks before on my ovaries so had to take a test, (I literally fell pregnant the week after that) and found out two days after receiving my results and booking surgery to remove my cysts. So we then booked a private scan for around 8 weeks and then had our NHS one at 12. It was reassuring to see the pregnancies develop, especially because of my history.
Chelsea Abbott: We had a scan at 9 weeks with both ours as we just couldn't wait to make sure everything was ok. Even though ectopic pregnancies and other problems are rare; we are worriers and the early scan stopped an extra month of worrying! It was worth every penny and the company (Window to the Womb) were thorough and reassuring.
Leanne Short: I had an early pregnancy scan as I had a huge a bleed at 7 weeks. It turned out I had a chronic haematoma. We went on to have a healthy 9lb baby.
George Terry: I had an early scan at eight weeks with the NHS as a previous pregnancy ended in miscarriage. It was good to know there was a heartbeat but honestly? It didn’t stop the terror that the pregnancy would end and that lasted all the way until she was born.
Alice Middleton: I had a private scan at 9 weeks, my anxiety about having a healthy pregnancy was starting to affect my everyday life so I just needed it for reassurance.
Maria Martin, Mother&Baby Online Editor: My early scan was due to having the coil fitted prior to getting pregnant. When I had the coil removed, myself and my partner started trying for a baby, once we found out we were pregnant our midwife asked me 'when the first day of my last period was?' - as I hadn't had a period for over a year I couldn't answer the midwife and she was therefore unable to give me an EDD and therefore book in my 12-week scan. The midwife had to put a guess date in from when my coil was removed, which meant I had an early scan, essentially by accident. The first scan I had showed I was between 9 - 10 weeks pregnant. This meant the sonographer wasn't able to do the correct checks on baby, nor give me an official EDD. The sonographer booked me in for a scan 3 weeks later, which showed I was 13 weeks pregnant and gave me an official due date. Knowing my official due date and confirming now the number of weeks gestation I was, I could then book my 20 week scan.