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Pregnancy is an exciting and important time in a woman’s life. During this time, it is essential to monitor the health of your developing baby to ensure that everything is progressing as it should be. One way to do this is through ultrasound scans, which provide valuable information about the baby’s development. But how many scans during pregnancy are needed or enough? In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and risks of ultrasound scans as well as the number of scans included in the NHS and having additional private pregnancy scans.
What is an Ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a non-invasive medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of internal organs, tissues, and developing fetuses. During an ultrasound scan, a sonographer or consultant sonographer applies a gel over your tummy, or if it’s still quite early in your pregnancy, then they may need to insert a probe into your vagina. The sound waves then bounce off the internal structures and return to a computer, which creates real-time images on a screen.
Why Ultrasound is Safe in Pregnancy?
Ultrasound is the only imaging method that is considered safe in pregnancy because it does not use ionizing radiation, such as X-rays. Instead, it uses sound waves that do not harm the developing baby or the mother. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in the US both recommend at least one ultrasound scan during pregnancy to assess fetal growth and development.
What can scans during pregnancy show?
Ultrasound scans during pregnancy can provide valuable information about the baby’s development, including the following:
- Confirmation of Pregnancy: An ultrasound scan can confirm that you are pregnant and estimate how many weeks you are into the pregnancy.
- Fetal Growth: Ultrasound scans can help measure the baby’s growth and estimate its weight, head circumference, and other important measurements.
- Detection of Abnormalities: Scans can detect many fetal abnormalities, including neural tube defects, heart defects, and other structural anomalies.
- Placental Positioning: Ultrasound scans can help determine the position of the placenta, which is important for assessing the risk of complications such as placenta previa.
- Multiple Pregnancies: Scans can identify multiple pregnancies requiring extra monitoring and care.
You can click here to have a look at the full range of ultrasound scans during pregnancy.
How many scans during pregnancy are included by the NHS?
The NHS typically offers pregnant women two ultrasound scans as part of their antenatal care. The first scan, known as the dating scan, is offered between 8 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. This scan aims to confirm the pregnancy, estimate the due date, and assess fetal development. The second scan, known as the anomaly scan, is offered between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. This scan aims to further check the baby’s development and identify any abnormalities.
The Benefits of Having Private Ultrasound Scans
Typically the NHS offers two scans during pregnancy, some women may choose to have additional private scans. Private ultrasound scans offer several benefits, including:
- More Detailed Scans: Private ultrasound scans can provide more detailed images and information about fetal development.
- Earlier Scans: Private ultrasound clinics can offer scans earlier than the NHS, which can be reassuring for women who may be anxious about their pregnancy.
- Additional Scans: Private ultrasound scans can provide additional reassurance and monitoring between NHS scans.
- Gender Identification: Private scans can provide early gender identification, which is not routinely offered by the NHS.
How many scans during pregnancy – the risks
Although ultrasound scans are considered safe, as with anything, an excess does have some risks. However, it is important to bear in mind that we see pregnant women in the clinic who have had a number of additional scans without any issues or problems. One of the things we do for every scan is to establish the main concern for having the ultrasound scan and will only allow the scan to go ahead if it is justified.
As previously mentioned, ultrasound is the only diagnostic imaging method considered safe during pregnancy. The exact number of ultrasound scans during pregnancy that is considered too much is not yet established, and most medical experts agree that the benefits of ultrasound scans outweigh the potential risks. If you have any concerns about the number of ultrasound scans you receive, it’s important to discuss them with your midwife.
In summary, early pregnancy scans are a routine part of prenatal care and play an important role in monitoring fetal growth and development. The NHS provides several scans throughout pregnancy, including the dating scan and the anomaly scan, which can detect fetal abnormalities. Private ultrasound scans offer additional options for expectant parents who want more frequent or specialized scans. While there may be some risks associated with too many scans, most medical professionals agree that the benefits of ultrasound scans far outweigh any potential risks.