The 12-week ultrasound scan is the first chance most mums get to see their baby. During the scan the sonographer checks:
- For a heartbeat.
- How many weeks pregnant you are (calculated by length), and your expected due date.
- Whether you have a multiple pregnancy and whether the placenta is shared, which requires closer monitoring.
- For foetal abnormalities: If you consent they will do a nuchal translucency (NT) scan (which is 65 percent accurate) to measure the fluid behind the neck, which indicates the risk of Down Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. If your result is concerning, procedures known as amniocentesis (in which a needle is inserted into the amniotic sac to extract a sample of amniotic fluid) or chorionic villus sampling (in which cells are taken from the placenta) will provide an accurate diagnosis. These procedures carry a small risk of miscarriage.
- A Maternal Serum blood test carried out at 9-14 weeks is almost 90 percent accurate at identifying increased risk in pregnancy and whether specialist referral is required.
- Another ultrasound scan is usually performed between 18 and 20 weeks. This “anatomy scan” is a check of your baby from head to toes and will detect most structural foetal abnormalities. The gender is usually apparent by this stage, too.
For more information visit the National Screening Unit’s website.
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