Private Ultrasound Scans
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Every pregnant woman in the UK will be given at least two routine ultrasound scans and other antenatal appointments on the NHS. If there are complications then you may be scanned more frequently to ensure that all is well and progressing normally. If you want additional reassurance and additional scans then it is likely that you will need to arrange for these to be done privately at a clinic.
What is a scan and how does it work?
An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves to bounce off your abdomen and womb, thereby building up a picture of the inside your body. It is similar to an x-ray but in 'real time'; you should be able to see your baby moving about. It is completely safe and painless for both you and the baby. Particularly for your first scan you may be asked to drink a lot of water in order to fill your bladder. This will push your womb into a better position for the scan. The sonographer (person performing the scan) will ask you to lie down and then apply a small amount of gel on your abdomen before passing a small instrument backwards and forwards over your skin. You and your partner should be able to see an image of your developing baby on a monitor and may be offered a print out to keep (there may be a charge for this). The image should be explained to you as it may be a little difficult to work out to the untrained eye. If you have any questions, do not be afraid to ask.
Your first scan will be between approximately 11 and 14 weeks. This is given to ensure that all is well with the pregnancy and that the foetus is developing normally. This scan should also reveal if you are carrying twins or triplets! The scan is used to more accurately determine the due date based on the size of the foetus.
Your second scan, offered at around 18 - 22 weeks, performs pretty much the same purpose but at this stage it will be possible to examine the baby in more detail. In some cases, it may be possible to determine the sex of the baby but as this is not the primary focus of this scan, the NHS cannot guarantee that this will always be possible; sometimes the baby is simply not in an ideal position for determining the sex. Unfortunately, this can leave some parents feeling disappointed.
The focus of this scan is to check that all is well and to check for anomalies. This scan can detect some but not all abnormalities. The sonographer will be checking the development of the baby's organs and ascertaining that both you and your baby are healthy. This scan is often called the 'anomaly scan' and some women choose not to have this. If you are unsure whether or not you wish to have this scan, discuss it with your midwife.
What if I want another scan?
Unless there is an underlying medical condition or you are in an 'at risk group' such as being an older mother, if you are obese or suffering from diabetes, these are the only two scans you will receive on the NHS.
If you want additional reassurance or just want to check on your baby's progress there are many private clinics offering this service. You will of course have to pay for these additional scans and prices vary greatly from clinic to clinic depending on the type of scan you want. You may be surprised at just how affordable it is.
Private scans offer a number of benefits including accurate foetal sexing or gender scan. Unlike the NHS anomaly scan, this is a scan specifically determined to ascertain the sex of your baby and it is unlikely that you will leave disappointed. For a more accurate result this is best performed after 17 weeks. If you really cannot bear to hedge your bets and paint the nursery yellow, then this is the scan for you!
3D and 4D scanning are also becoming increasingly popular. As the name suggests, it provides a more detailed view of your baby than a traditional ultrasound can provide. These types of scans will pick up details such as small movements of fingers and toes, and you may even be lucky enough to catch your baby yawning or blinking. You will get a really good idea of what your baby looks like in a 3D or 4D scan and this can be a great experience for both you and your partner. It is worth mentioning that these types of scans are every bit as safe as a traditional ultrasound, they are 100% painless and completely risk free for both you and the baby. You may even get to take home a DVD of your baby!
Many parents opt for an additional scan between 34 and 40 weeks just to check on their baby's development. This is often called the presentation scan. It will reveal the position of the baby in the womb and also the position of the placenta.
If you have had problems conceiving and/or if this is your first child you may find the additional reassurance that all is going to plan comforting. Sometimes it is easier to see for yourself than to take the reassurances of even the most experienced obstetrician or midwife. If you want an additional scan then go for it, no one will be offended.