A guide to NHS Pregnancy Scans

A landmark moment for many couples having a child (especially their first) is when they attend their first prenatal ultrasound scan and get to see their baby for the first time.

In this guide we take a look at the various NHS pregnancy scans that will happen during your pregnancy, how often they will happen and what is involved in them.

What is a pregnancy scan?

A pregnancy scan, also known as an ultrasound scan, is a key part of the pregnancy experience for all mums-to-be.

They involve a device that is run over your stomach that emits sound waves, which create a picture on the monitor of what the baby looks like. The device is operated by a sonographer, a person specifically trained to carry out this non-invasive activity.

The scan allows sonographer to check on the developmental progress of your baby and spot any signs of things that may need further investigation.

How often do they take place?

Scans can take place at any point throughout the pregnancy, however in general there will be specific milestones when they occur.

The first scan, which is often referred to as the ‘dating scan’, will generally take place between 8 and 14 weeks. This will depend on how soon you told your doctor about your pregnancy and also how busy hospital is with other appointments.

This scan helps the sonographer to estimate the delivery date for your baby, plus check on the early development. Also it can spot whether you are having just one child or need to prepare for a multiple birth.

The second scan often takes place between 18 to 21 weeks. This is known as the ‘anomaly scan’ and as the name suggests will check for any abnormalities or anomalies.

Some women may be offered more scans during their pregnancy, especially if there are health issues or other concerns for your baby.

What happens in the scan session?

The pregnancy scan sessions take place in complete privacy, with you and the sonographer. You will also be able to take someone with you, usually your partner.

You will be asked to lie flat on a bed and expose your stomach. The sonographer will then put a gel on your stomach and gently move the ultrasound device across your stomach to get the scan they need. The gel is often quite cold so you may well jump a bit!

You will then be able to see the scan of your baby on the monitor beside the bed.

At the end of the session the sonographer will print out some copies of the scan for you to take away (and show your friends and family when the time is right).

If you have questions about your NHS pregnancy scans then download our app today and get the answers you need from our team qualified midwives.