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Baby Scans: What you need to know

Most expecting parents look forward to getting scans on visits to the doctor, because this where they get the first glimpses of your baby, which is hugely exciting. However, as thrilled as it is to see your baby, the doctor does the scan to check your baby’s development.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF BABY SCANS?

Depending on your stage of pregnancy, scans can:

  • Check your baby’s heartbeat.
  • Accurately see how far along in your pregnancy you are.
  • Examine your baby to see if all her organs are normal.
  • Say whether you are pregnant with one baby or have multiple babies.
  • Show whether you are expecting a boy or girl.

WHAT PROBLEMS CAN THE SCAN PICK UP?

Scans can be used for further investigation to find out the cause of any bleeding you may be having or determine why a blood screening test was abnormal. The scan can show that you have an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implants outside the uterus. By showing the position of the baby and placenta it can help with diagnostic tests, such as CVS or amniocentesis safely. The images from the scan can also diagnose abnormalities, such as spina bifida and assess your baby’s risk of Down’s syndrome by measuring fluid at the back of your baby’s neck.

WHEN ARE SCANS USUALLY CARRIED OUT?

Some doctors take scans at every visit but there are a few essential ones. First is a dating scan when you are between 10 weeks and 14 weeks pregnant. This is especially important if you are having screening tests for Down’s syndrome, as a correct due date is needed to make the result accurate. In your second trimester you should have an anomaly scan at about 20 weeks. This is to check that your baby is developing normally In your third trimester, you may be recommended to have a growth scan between 28 weeks and 40 weeks.

2D, 3D AND 4D SCANS

Pregnancy scans are imaging tests that use sound waves to see the baby. 2D Conventional or ‘standard’ ultrasound gives an image in two dimensions, but they may be grainy and grey since they 3D ultrasounds are still pictures of your baby in three dimensions, like the photos you sometimes see in newspapers and magazines. 4D scans (with time as the fourth dimension) are moving 3D images of the baby. If you decide to have a 4D scan, you may be given a recording of it on DVD. 4D baby scans show you the foetus in astonishing detail. 3D and 4D baby scan technology can show you the baby’s actions such as smiling, sucking on his or her fingers and yawning.

ARE THERE ANY MEDICAL BENEFITS TO 3D AND 4D SCANS?

3D and 4D scans allow your doctor to see the skin and outer layers or your baby as opposed to 2D scans that see right through. Therefore, they are more accurate in detecting certain external birth anomalies such as cleft lip and spina bifida. 4D scans have also been found to detect congenital heart diseases more accurately. Otherwise, 2D scans are just as accurate as 3D in performing most of the necessary screening that is required during pregnancy.

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