5 routine pregnancy scans you must know about
Pregnancy scans are an essential part of antenatal care and will easily help you detect complications in the foetus as well as its week-by-week growth
As a new mum-to-be, you will undergo a variety of pregnancy scans to track the progress and growth of your baby. These scans are a crucial part of antenatal care and can easily detect complications during pregnancy.
Even if you are a super healthy mom, such tests can provide an added advantage. The process begins with the OB-GYN sharing crucial information about the procedure of these scans.
Pregnancy scans are conducted using the ultrasound machine. In all these scans, the ultrasound machine sends across high frequency waves to the uterus through the stomach. These readings are recorded in a monitor and studied to identify defects and the development of the growing foetus.
Type of Pregnancy Scans
At the beginning of your pregnancy, you will probably be given a chart by your OB-GYN that lists the five major tests that you would undergo. You will be scanned at various stages of the pregnancy using the following tests:
Dating and viability scan
- This scan is carried out between the sixth and the ninth week. It checks the position of the baby and the placenta inside the uterus.
- With this test, you can hear your baby’s heartbeat and this ensures that you are successfully carrying the pregnancy.
- This test will also help you find the exact due date even if you have forgotten the first date of your last menstrual cycle.
- It also checks for bleeding or spotting and finds its root cause; as well as checks for the number of babies you may be carrying.
- It also checks for blood flow or circulation to the mother’s womb and fetal wall defects.
Nuchal translucency (NT) scan
- This pregnancy scan is carried out between 11 and 13 weeks and is also called an early morphology scan.
- NT is the collection of fluid under the skin of the neck of the baby. If it is thick, it could be a sign of Down Syndrome. If so, the doctor could check the nasal base of the baby to confirm.
- It is, therefore, primarily done to confirm any abnormalities in the developing foetus.
Continue reading to know about the three next and most important pregnancy scans.
- This test is carried out between 18 and 20 weeks and is undertaken to check the foetal movements and its development.
- It also checks the development of internal organs of the foetus and detects birth defects.
- This pregnancy scan also checks the umbilical cord as well as the placement of the placenta.
- Anomaly scan also tests the level of amniotic fluid inside the womb and measures the cervix and the length of the birth canal.
- This pregnancy scan is carried out between 28 and 32 weeks and checks the womb for overall development of the baby.
- Your OB-GYN will measure the circumference of your baby’s head and tummy.
- It will also check the length of your baby’s thigh bone or femur to check for abnormalities and the development.
- It will also check the overall depth of the amniotic fluid inside the womb.
Colour Doppler scan
- This pregnancy scan is carried out between 36 and 40 weeks. It is done to check your baby’s health, since by the end of the 38th week you are ready to deliver.
- This test measures the blood flow in your baby’s various body parts including its heart, brain and even the umbilical cord.
- The result of this test determines the level of oxygen and nutrients that reaches the baby’s body through the placenta.
Use of pregnancy scans
These ultrasound tests are conducted in specific weeks of pregnancy to identify the growth rate of the baby. Apart from this, they also carry out other functions such as:
- Identifying the placement of the fertilized egg, where the placenta grows
- Checking your developing baby’s heartbeat
- Checking for the number of babies you may have conceived
- Checking for ectopic pregnancy
- Predicting an accurate date of delivery
- Checking for bleeding during pregnancy and finding its root cause
- Checking if your baby is suffering from down syndrome
- Aiding diagnostic tests to check the placement of the baby and the placenta
- Checking to see if the baby’s organs are growing normally
- Checking the amount of amniotic fluid
- Checking the blood flow in the uterus
Continue reading to know more about the procedure of pregnancy scans and what to do if a defect is detected
Procedure of pregnancy scans
Since pregnancy scans are taken at different weeks during the pregnancy, you will be instructed to fast or drink fluids based on the type of test. For instance, if you were undergoing an early pregnancy scan, then you would be required to drink several glasses of water. This will push the uterus downwards by a full bladder.
The advantage of drinking water is also to clearly see the baby. In case the OB-GYN is unable to spot the baby, you will have to undergo a vaginal test. Here, a vaginal transducer will be inserted into your vagina and the baby can clearly be seen.
However, there could several reasons why the OB-GYN would be unable to detect the details of the developing baby. These could be the following:
- If you are above 35 years of age
- If you are carrying twins
- If you have any irregularity or complications related to the pregnancy such as blood circulation in the umbilical cord
- If you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, problems with the liver function and even gestational diabetes
What if the pregnancy scan shows a problem?
If you fall under any of the aforementioned categories, then there are chances that the doctor might spot some health issues in the developing baby. Certain definite defects such as spina bifida can be detected with these scans.
In other cases, the scans may show signs of birth defects and also signs of problems such as Down syndrome. However, in a situation where an unlikely defect in the baby is detected, you must consult with a specialist and prepare yourself physically mentally for what's to come.
But remember that these pregnancy scans are informative and extremely helpful for a mother-to-be and the developing baby.
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