What is an ultrasound scan?

Ultrasound scanning, or sonography, is a standard procedure in medical practice established more than 30 years ago. It is completely safe and there have never been any known side-effects on the mother or the baby. It functions on the principle of sending out sound waves inaudible to humans via an ultrasound probe gliding over your tummy.

These waves further bounce off the baby as echoes and are then transformed into an image. As a result, your Doctor or a Sonographer sees the image on a screen, which they use to make detailed measurements and determine the position, movements and the wellbeing of your baby.

1. First trimester scans

A black woman is holding a pregnancy test.

Your first scan – Early pregnancy scan

Early pregnancy scan is your first ever ultrasound scan, and it can be quite exciting – not because it will show you the image that will not look like anything you have ever come across before, but  because, more importantly, it will allow you to hear your baby’s heart beat for the very first time! This is one very powerful sound, the sound of life that all of us mammals respond to instinctively.

Early pregnancy scan can be done from week 6 and it is quite important to have it done, especially if you are experiencing symptoms such as vaginal bleeding or pain, or if you have had them in your previous pregnancy.

While the NHS does not provide this early scan, we at Private Ultrasound Clinic know how very crucial it can be for your peace of mind during this all-important first stage of pregnancy.

Early pregnancy scan is also referred to as Dating scan, as it is often used to determine your due date more accurately. Since the baby usually grows 1 mm per day, this stage is the best time to check your conception date and determine the due date.

It is advisable to have your bladder full prior to the scan, since liquid enables better sound transmission. Sometimes, at this very early stage, the regular tummy scan does not give a very clear image, so vaginal scan may be performed instead. Rest assured that it does not pose any health risks to either you or your baby, as it is conducted in a perfectly safe and painless manner.

Gender scan

Many expecting parents spend considerable time getting excited about whether their baby will be a girl or a boy, what colour to paint the nursery room, what type of baby clothes to get, what name to choose… And not surprisingly, for some it is a little too long to wait the whole 9 months for the “big reveal”.

Understandably, many would like to find out as soon as it is possible!

At only 16 weeks of pregnancy, we can determine your baby’s gender with 99% accuracy.

Of course, this type of scan can be done at any later date, up to delivery time and our Private Ultrasound clinic provides it combined with a full Growth Scan, for the same price.

2. Second trimester scans

A white woman is lying on a sofa and she had put her palms on her pregnant belly.

20 weeks anatomy scan

The first trimester scans are used to check the initial development of the baby and to try to have an early diagnoses of possible abnormalities, whereas the second trimester scans can diagnose those abnormalities more accurately. They are usually carried out at 19-22 weeks of pregnancy, and your Doctor or a Sonographer, performs the scan to see if your baby is developing normally and to determine the position of the placenta.

This scan in particular is one of the most detailed and thorough scans you will have, as great attention is given to measuring each part of the baby’s body, skeleton and internal organs, in order to establish a complete picture of your baby’s progress and development.

Growth scan

This scan can be performed any time between 24 and 40 weeks of pregnancy, as its aim is to check the growth and development of your baby. It is not normally available on the NHS.

The scan will examine the circumference of your baby’s head and abdomen, the length of its thigh bone, the baby’s position and movements in the uterus, the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby and the position of the placenta. All these elements make it possible to estimate the baby’s weight at birth.

No special preparations are required prior to this scan, as your baby is already developed enough.

3. Third trimester scans

A pregnant Asian woman is sitting on the medical bad and she is holding her belly with her hand. 

4D Doppler scans

Doppler fetal scan is usually one of the last trimester scans, as it is performed between 24 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. It is not a regular one in the NHS, where it is performed only upon women who suffer from gestational diabetes.

Concerns have been raised by such experts as Professor Nikolaides over the fact that Doppler scan should be provided to all on NHS and could save mothers and babies from many complications further down the line, as well as prevent half of the UK’s stillbirths- with the UK having an exceptionally high annual figure.

That is why we at Private Ultrasound provide the Doppler scan as we understand its preventive value and importance.

It is performed during a regular ultrasound growth scan, however its mechanics are slightly different as the Doppler sends high-frequency sound waves that bounce off red blood cells to measure blood pressure and blood flow from mother’s placenta to the baby.

4D baby bonding scan (‘Hello from the other side’)

As your baby is developed enough by weeks 26-32 our Private Ultrasound clinic offers the very popular ultrasound scan performed in 3D or 4D techniques to finally give you a glimpse of your baby from the inside.

This is the fun one for the whole family so let us know how many family members you will be bringing along! This is the scan where we all excitedly admire the little one inside its mummy’s tummy while waving, smiling, pointing, yawning, dancing or even hiding, as our Sonographer tries to get it to pose for some photos.

It is a true bonding experience as you now finally get to ‘put a face to that name’ you’ve probably picked back in the week 16! Yes, you get to see your mini-me in its full glory, via the ultrasound techniques. The images are, of course, very different from photographic images, as you would expect.

Apart from the 3D images, there is also a moving image compilation for you to take home and treasure on a DVD.

Presentation scan

As the Delivery Day approaches, we are here to prepare and advise you on the baby’s position, size and general well being- as this now becomes extremely important for your delivery.

Between weeks 35-40 Private Ultrasound will perform your Presentation scan, which includes the regular Growth scan, and report on the baby’s position, size and estimated weight.

This is not available on NHS and sometimes it seems that not much thought is given to it, although this is a crucial moment in your entire 9 months of pregnancy.

Should your baby be in a breach position, you will need to be well prepared and make arrangements for its delivery, in order to have a safe and as painless birth experience as possible for both your baby and yourself.

Finally, It is very important to have the scans in certified and accredited clinics or hospitals, such as Private Ultrasound Ltd. which performs 4D baby scans, as it is only these types of clinics that are authorised to give you an accurate interpretation of the results and provide you with all the help and guidance if the need arises.



To sum up

Knowing your baby’s gender before it is born is a decision that may influence the second half of your pregnancy, but cannot influence your baby’s gender. While many parents prefer not to reveal it, due to the surprise factor and the enjoyment of expectancy, there are many others who cannot wait for the big day and prefer bonding with their baby by referring to it as either a ‘he’ or a ‘she’.

Whatever group you belong to, do not forget to enjoy your pregnancy. Also, learn all about the journey of pregnancy, familiarise yourself with what scans to have and how to take care of yourself while expecting, and, most importantly, remember that the joy of giving a new life is the greatest gift there is. Nobody can take that away from you.

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