The first thing to say is that it’s entirely natural to be nervous or even anxious about having a scan during your pregnancy. And you’re not alone. Our forums are full of similar stories.
“I am now 8+6 (8 weeks and 6 days) and due for my dating scan in a few weeks,” shares MFMer xOliversMummyx. “I am so worried something will be wrong, like they won’t be able to find a heartbeat. I know there is nothing I can do to prevent anything going wrong, but I am so worried! I am so pleased to be pregnant but I still can’t enjoy it all.”
For many of you the initial wait for the dating/12 week scan is agonisingly long. It can feel like an eternity. And one definitely not helped by our bodies playing tricks on us.
“I found the wait for the first scan the absolute hardest bit of the whole pregnancy,” says oscar2. “The wait was horrid, especially as I had a symptomless pregnancy.”
And why is it that one day you can ‘feel’ so pregnant with tons of symptoms and the next day they’ve all but disappeared?
As Lambchop80 shares: “Every time I think my symptoms are calming down I then get worried that I’ve lost my baby. I’ve taken (I think) 7 pregnancy tests since I found out almost a week ago. How crazy is that.”
Jane Fisher is the director of the charity Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC), which parents through antenatal screening scans and tests. “It can feel like a very long wait from finding out you’re pregnant to having your first scan,” says Jane, “and it’s normal to perhaps worry if everything is OK with your baby.”
So how likely is it that a scan might show up an issue?
The good news is that the numbers are on your side. ARC confirms that issues and problems are only usually found in about 3-5% of scans. For the other 95%, your scans are likely to be normal.
“Having a scan is incredibly profound,” says Jane. “And for most of you the scan will be an overwhelmingly positive experience.”
Can a pregnancy scan have a negative effect on your baby?
Echoing NHS advice, Jane confirms that a scan is not dangerous for your unborn baby. “Ultrasound scans have been used in antenatal care for over 30 years,” says Jane, “and there is no evidence to suggest that they are harmful to you or your baby.”
However, a report in 2010 from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) did warn of the growth of private scan companies offering parents-to-be the opportunity to have several non-essential scans in order to create keepsake pictures and videos. The HPA advised that more research was needed into any possible risks of too many unnecessary scans, but agreed that there was no clear evidence that these ‘souvenir’ scans were in any way harmful.
Worried enough to book an early scan…
Some pregnant women decide that the wait for the initial dating scan is just too long and instead opt for a private early scan to find out more.
“Unless there is a medical issue you are unlikely to be offered this on the NHS but there are plenty of private providers,” confirms Jane.
Jan Steward, a sonographer and founder of Ultrasound Direct and Babybond says she sees many newly pregnant women.
“We offer a scan from 7 weeks; any earlier than this and it is hard to see anything clearly,” says Jan. “We want to relieve anxiety and not cause it so we encourage you to try to wait until this time where we’ll be able to give you a much clearer picture.”
And for some of our mums having that early scan really helps with the worry.
“I think it is such a shame that they don’t make early scans standard,” says Alison_eardley. “The first stage is so difficult, worrying about everything that might go wrong. We booked an early scan at 8+2, and it was such a relief to see everything was looking good. It has relaxed me slightly. I know that for a lot of people, it is an unbelievable extravagance, but if you are able to, I would recommend it. I have relaxed since, and am beginning to be able to enjoy my pregnancy.”
But an early scan is not for everyone, nor does everyone have the option to pay for one. Back to oscar2 who earlier revealed how difficult she found the wait for her first scan.
“There are no words that can really reassure any of you in this tricky time, other than to say everyone goes through this. Earlier scans are an option but (as awful as it sounds) they only mean the baby is OK in that split second. I just felt until the 1st trimester was over, an early scan wouldn’t offer me any real reassurance and I just preferred to wait.”
Mums in our forum have shared lots of advice about practical things you can do to deal with the anxiety.
“I was very anxious but I took control over it with positive affirmations and mind movies on YouTube,” says Mrsdaisy. “These aren’t for everyone but they really worked for me. I’m starting to believe if you think positive it really helps.”
AmyW used a different approach. “I’ve been having reflexology and have found it helps wonders with relaxing.”
So what can you look forward to with your scan?
Babybond sonographer Jan Steward confirms that for most people, once you’re actually in the room, having a scan will be an incredibly positive experience. “This is the chance for you to finally see your baby and hopefully be reassured that things are progressing well. Any scan is a chance to check on the physical health of your baby.”
And if you do have concerns you will have a chance to ask questions and get some reassurance or further information.
For sezza-121010, the wait was worth it. “I am 12 weeks 2 days and had my scan today. I was so so worried before but it turned out fine. I had no other early scans which was nerve racking! But the heartbeat was fine and my advice is just to relax and enjoy it.”
Zanzara adds, “I’ve had no symptoms and had my first scan today and the little peanut is as healthy as anything so try not to worry.”
Worrying about growth scans
Although we find most of us worry about the 12 week scan and getting that initial confirmation that all is well, some of us also have concerns about later scans, especially if your baby is measuring large for your dates.
This was Rach_and_Harry’s experience.
“Try not to worry. My little one is now nearly 8 months old and when I was 34 weeks I was measuring 40cm for fundal height. I was sent for a scan and I was told I had a very high amount of fluid and that my baby was going to be huge. When he was finally born he was perfect. Nothing wrong and he only weighed 8lb 6oz.”
Hollys_mummy was in a similar position “I had a growth scan at 30 weeks and then every 2 weeks from then on to keep an eye on it. Apparently if you’re just having a big baby that can explain it and it’s not always a sign something is wrong.”
“If you are asked to have extra scans remember that this is all part of checking your baby is safe and things are progressing,” says ARC’s Jane Fisher. “Try not to always think of them as a negative.”
What if your scan does suggest a problem?
While it’s important to be positive, we can’t pretend that there aren’t some issues found on scans.
“We advise parents to be prepared that there is the possibility of an issue arising,” says Jane. “We suggest you go along to the scan with a list of questions prepared just in case this happens to you.”
While every case is individual, the ARC suggests these are useful questions to ask if you your scan is not straightforward:
- How serious do you think this is?
- What tests are available to find out more information?
- How long do I have to make decisions on next steps?
- Are there any treatment options?
- What will it mean when my baby is born?
- Will there need to be any interventions?
- What happens after the scan finishes?
“Of course you may also be in shock so be reassured you’ll be able to speak to your midwife and doctors after you have had time to digest the news.” says Jane.
The ARC also has a dedicated helpline to talk through any of your worries on 0845 077 2290 or 0207 713 7486 via mobile.
Talking about it on our forum may also help, suggests littlelettuce.
“Try not to worry. May be give yourself a bit of time to have a bath to calm you. Hopefully talking about it on here will help you.”
Still a bit worried?
Mums on our forum suggest:
- Focus on the positives (hey, you’re going to get to see your baby)
- Try to be patient
- Take your mind off the scan
- Don’t worry if your pregnancy symptoms have disappeared – it’s very common
“I had my 12 week scan on Wednesday, and I had wound myself up so much over the past month I just burst into tears as soon as the midwife asked how I was,” says Sid89. “Needless to say everything was absolutely fine. I saw the baby wiggle around and even saw its mouth open and close (already greedy). The only thing you can do is be patient, but I know it’s so much easier said than done.”