Getting pregnant can be a long and often painful process. When you finally get that positive pregnancy test result, it’s fair to say the journey is only just beginning.
Every pregnant woman in the UK is entitled to two ultrasound scans during her pregnancy, one at 12 weeks gestation, and another at 20 weeks. If there are perceived complications, such as concerns about the baby’s size, or a low-lying placenta, you may also be offered further scans later on in the pregnancy.
For many women, however, 12 weeks is a long time to wait to be sure that everything is OK with their unborn child. An early pregnancy scan can provide reassurance.
Why reassurance is important in pregnancy
Here at Surescan, many of the pregnant women we see for early pregnancy scans have been on a long journey.
Often they have undergone fertility treatment, sometimes lasting several years. This pregnancy is such a hard-won prize that they are in need of extra reassurance that it really is happening.
Some have experienced miscarriage in the past and are terrified of once again turning up for the 12-week scan to hear bad news.
Others may just want to know that the foetus is healthy before imparting the news to family and friends. In fact, according to madeformums.com an estimated 24% of pregnant women have opted to have an early pregnancy scan prior to the standard 12-week ultrasound.
For all these pregnant women, having an ultrasound early on in pregnancy to check the strength of the foetal heartbeat can help put their minds at rest. And after all, a stress-free pregnancy is a healthy pregnancy.
What happens at an early pregnancy scan?
An early pregnancy scan is very similar to the 12-week scan in terms of the way it is carried out.
Just like the later scans, you will be asked to lie on a bed and remove the clothing from your abdominal area. The ultrasound technician will then rub gel onto the area, before passing the ultrasound handpiece over your abdomen. The ultrasound image will appear on a screen.
There are some differences in terms of what you can see in an early pregnancy scan. The reason for the standard 12 week scan is that by this time the foetus has usually reached a stage of development that allows us to assess whether things are progressing in a normal, healthy way.
What can you see at an early pregnancy scan?
That all depends on how early the scan is. An ultrasound scan as described above can be carried out from about six weeks. But the heartbeat gets stronger over time, so seven weeks or later is usually recommended.
Prior to the six week mark a scan is only really recommended if ectopic pregnancy is suspected.
At eight weeks, as well as the heartbeat, you might be able to make out the baby’s head and body.
By about nine weeks the baby should be nearly fully formed and you may be able to discern the limbs. At ten weeks you may even see them moving.
If you would like to find out more about early pregnancy scans, please call us on 07835 736627.