Antenatal scans are only one part of your regular antenatal checks but they’re usually the part that’s most enjoyable and rewarding for prospective parents, giving them a chance to see their developing baby in the womb.
Most pregnant women in the UK can expect to have only two scans, one at around 12 weeks and the other at around 20 weeks, but there may be reasons for having special, or extra, scans at other times throughout pregnancy, particularly if there are pregnancy complications or the pregnancy is multiple (eg. twins).
At-a-glance guide to scans
Although there are two main scans, it’s possible you will need extra ones if your GP, midwife or obstetrician feels they are needed, plus there are others you can pay for, such as the 4D scans which look more like the ones used on our weekly fetal development newsletters. However, regular hospital scans now offer pretty amazing images of your growing baby, thanks to improving technology.
Week 6-10 Early scan (usually for women who have had problems during an earlier pregnancy).
Week 10 Blood and urine tests – your first appointment with your midwife. In some areas of the country, this appointment might not happen until around 14-15 weeks.
Week 10-16 Dating ultrasound scan – offered to you on the NHS, this is the first time you’ll see your developing baby!
Week 11-14 Nuchal translucency test – offered on the NHS in some areas, this is the most accurate way of screening for Down’s syndrome.
Week 11-15 Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) – you may want to have this if you’re over 35 or at a higher risk of having a child with a genetic disorder.
Week 16+ Amniocentesis – may be available to you on the NHS if you’re over 35 or at risk of having a child with a genetic disorder.
Week 16-18 The double or triple test – offered to all pregnant women, these are blood tests for foetal abnormalities.
Week 20 Anomaly ultrasound scan – this is the most detailed scan you’ll have, checking that all is well with your baby. It will probably be offered to you on the NHS, and is a great opportunity to meet your baby.
Week 37 onwards Routine midwife checks – your midwife will be on hand now to keep an eye on you and make sure all is going according to plan.
If you have any particular health concern (you have problems with your iron levels, you are overweight, or you have fibroids, for example), you might be asked to attend for other blood tests or extra scans as your pregnancy progresses, just to make sure that you and your baby are staying healthy.