The 12-week scan: what should you expect?
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
The 12-week scan is the first of two routine scans that you will be offered during your pregnancy. It serves many purposes, but most excitingly it will be the first time that you get to 'see' your little one. After the scan you'll get to come away with some lovely black and white 'photos'. Although it is called the 12-week scan you are usually offered this Dating Scan between eight and 14 weeks, but most commonly at 12. It is at this scan that you will get an accurate due date.
What is the purpose of the 12-week scan?
The scan will check:
• How many weeks pregnant you are and work out your due date, formally the Estimated Due Date (EDD). Prior to this you will have probably guess by counting backwards from mum-to-be's last period.
• Whether you are expecting more than one baby - for me this was nail biting. We knew we were pregnant, but were we having twins or more?!
• Whether your baby is growing in the right place.
• Whether your baby has a heartbeat, and if the skull, umbilical cord and limbs are all growing normally.
At the scan you can also opt to have screening for Downs Syndrome. This test can only take place if your scan done between weeks 11 and 14. The test is sometimes called a combined test as it involves taking a sample of mums blood and measuring the fluid at the back of the babies neck.
If you have your first scan later than 14 weeks you can also get a test at the 20 week scan, this is slightly less accurate.
What happens during the scan?
The can will be conducted by a specially trained member of staff called a Sonographer. They will use an ultrasound
machine specially designed for these scans. The Sonographer will apply some gel to mums tummy (this is often cold, so warn her) and then roll a small handheld device over mums stomach and possibly right down into mums groin.
The Sonographer will need to get to mums skin, so it's probably best if mum wears trousers and a top rather than a dress for all of your scans. Mum will be lying on her back on a hospital bed for the scan and will have to adjust her clothes.
The Sonographer will apply a firm downward pressure to Mums bump, but this shouldn't hurt. At worst it will be uncomfortable because Mum will have a full bladder. Nicky says that it just made her want to go for a wee even more.
The scan lasts for about 20 - 30 minutes, as you will have read the Sonographer has lots to look for. Which isn't always easy as baby might not be lying in quite the right place, especially for the all important fluid measurement. For us Evie was being a right nuisance so we ended up having to come back 3 times during the appointment to try and get Evie to shift a little. Eventually on the 4th go the Sonographer go the measurements she needed.
Who can go to the scan?
This changes hospital to hospital, however almost all hospitals will allow Dads, partners or close family members to attend. We really recommend going with Mum as it is an emotional experience seeing your little one for the first time. Being there to support Mum is really important, after all this scan be really anxiety inducing. Other children are usually not allowed, mainly due to the Sonographer needing to concentrate and the less distractions the better. But again, check with the hospital (or your midwife) but don't be surprised if they say no.
Can the scan harm mum or baby?
There are no known risks to either Mum or Baby. The scan can give you information that means you have to make further important decisions.
When will we get the results?
The Sonographer will give you your results immediately. If anything is abnormal you will be referred to a specialist to discuss the results.
If you have opted for the Downs Syndrome test this will take around a week and you should get these tests in the post. If you don't get the results in a timely manor, or need some help understanding the results (we found they used some very long medical terms) ask your midwife.
Is it a girl or a boy?
At the 12-week scan you won't be able to find out the sex of your baby. This can be done at the 20-week scan, but this is dependant on your hospitals policy. Make sure to tell your Sonographer at the start of your 20-week scan.