Your ultrasound scans

Ultrasound scans use sound waves to build a picture of the baby in the womb.

Scans are painless, have no known side effects on mothers or babies, and can be carried out at any stage of pregnancy.

We offer at least two ultrasound scans during your pregnancy. The first, at 10 to 14 weeks, is sometimes called the dating scan. The sonographer estimates when your baby is due based on the baby’s measurements. The second scan usually takes place between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. This scan checks for 11 physical conditions in your baby.

You may be offered more than two scans, depending on your health and your pregnancy.

Having a scan in pregnancy is usually a happy event, but ultrasound scans are also an opportunity for sonographers to detect some serious health conditions, so try to be prepared for that information.

What will happen at the scan?

Most scans are carried out by sonographers. The scan is carried out in a dimly lit room so the sonographer is able to get good images of your baby.

You’ll be asked to lie on your back and reveal your tummy so that the sonographer can apply ultrasound gel, which makes sure there is good contact between the probe and your skin.

The sonographer passes the probe over your tummy and a picture of the baby will appear on the ultrasound screen, so that the sonographer can carefully examine your baby. The sonographer may need to apply slight pressure to your tummy to get the best view of your baby.

How long will a scan take?

A scan usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes. However, the sonographer may not be able to get good views if your baby is lying in an awkward position or moving around a lot.

If it’s difficult to get a good image, the scan may take longer or have to be repeated at another time.

Can I bring family or friends with me?

Your partner or a friend is welcome to accompany you to your scans.

We do not allow children to attend ultrasound appointments. If you do attend with children, your scan will need to be re booked.

Why can’t children accompany me to my scan?

Children cannot attend your scans for a number of reasons.

The scan usually takes around 20-30 minutes and children become very bored and can sometimes be disruptive or wander off. Our sonographers need a high level of concentration – the scans check your baby for anomalies or abnormalities, and clinical decisions regarding your care and the care of your baby are made on the strength of information gathered.

In addition we may need to do an intimate scan, or, if any abnormalities are found, we may need to break difficult news. In either case, it may not be appropriate to do so in front of your child.

What happens after my scan?

Most scans show that the baby is developing normally and you can continue with your routine antenatal care. This is because most babies are healthy.

If the scan shows that your baby is more likely to have a condition, the sonographer may ask a colleague for a second opinion. You might be offered another test to find out for certain if your baby has the condition.

If you’re offered further tests, you will be given more information about them so you can decide whether or not you want to have them. You’ll be able to discuss this with your midwife or consultant.

More information about ultrasound scans in pregnancy can be found on the NHS website.