How to survive the twelve week pregnancy scan
First Trimester

How to Survive the Twelve Week Pregnancy Scan

Yay! You made it!

Finally, you have survived the twelve week wait and have arrived at your twelve-week pregnancy scan.

Now you are about have all of the questions that have been burning in your brain answered:

Is baby alive and well? When will baby be due? Is there more than one baby in there? Is there a baby in there at all?

At this stage in your pregnancy, you have little more to confirm that you are indeed knocked up, than a (probably now very old!) positive pregnancy test. Maybe coupled with a handful of first trimester symptoms.

Did you keep your pregnancy test?!

I know that I was desperate to see that picture on the Sonographer’s screen to confirm that I wasn’t crazy, and was in fact pregnant!

All that excitement and desperation can get in the way of all of those questions in your head. Questions about what will happen at your first scan. It can lead to a painstaking wait in the ultrasound reception as all of the ifs, buts and what’s suddenly descend on you.

Don’t panic lady! I’m here to give you the low down on all you need to know and all that you should expect during your twelve-week pregnancy scan!

Let’s talk this through, so you can go into that ultrasound room with nothing more on your mind than seeing your little human for the first time!

PLEASE NOTE: the below information is correct at the date of publish for the UK and should not be used instead of any advice you receive from your healthcare practitioners – it is purely for guidance.

I am not a Doctor or a Midwife!

Practises will differ depending on country, region and local care authority so your care and treatment may differ from that shown below.

If you have any questions, about your twelve-week pregnancy scan or any other aspect of your pregnancy please do ask your Doctor, Midwife, Sonographer or Ultrasound Department for more advice.

What week do you have your first scan?

All pregnant women in England are offered an ultrasound dating scan, somewhere between 8 to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Usually it is scheduled for somewhere around the 12-week mark. However, it could be offered a few weeks either side of this.

Your Midwife or Doctor will book this in. It will usually take place at your local hospital ultrasound department.

Of course, you may have already had scans during your pregnancy. Especially if you have experienced any early pregnancy problems or are deemed as having a high risk pregnancy.

This twelve-week pregnancy scan, however, is the one that will be used to determine your estimated date of delivery (EDD).

What can I expect at my first ultrasound?

For your twelve-week pregnancy scan you are required to have a full bladder. This is so that your baby is in a position where it is clearly visible to the Sonographer.

You are required to drink at least one litre of clear fluids, one hour before your scan. Avoid fizzy drinks as it may distort the Sonographer’s view. Go for water, squash, tea or coffee (decaf of course!).

What I have done for all of my scans is downed a litre of squash, over the course of 10 – 15 minutes, an hour and fifteen minutes before my scan appointment.

Then HOLD. And pray your Ultrasound Department are running on time.

It has always seemed very mean to me, to ask pregnant women to hold off from going for a wee, with a very full bladder, for such a long period of time.

This is the time in your life when you can quite happily manage to pee twenty times an hour. Holding it in takes a whole load of patience, endurance and skill (keep going with those Kegels!).

At my recent 20 week scan I was told I had broken the record for the fullest bladder the Sonographer had ever seen! It was so full that she couldn’t see baby because it was in the way!

The prize for the fullest bladder goes to…

‘Are you not uncomfortable?’ she asked me.

‘Yes, love, yes I’m RIDICULOUSLY uncomfortable! I feel like my bladder is the size of an over-inflated beach ball, like it’s about to burst. I have been doing the ‘wee jiggle’ for the last half an hour. BUT I am doing what I was told – full bladder or you don’t get to see baby today!’

I was told to go and have half a wee and try again.

My god that was torturous! Being only allowed to allow yourself slight relief from an overflowing bladder!

After my half-wee, it was still too full, but she persevered and continued to press on my thoroughly full bladder for the next 45 minutes.

So yes, fun it is not, uncomfortable it is, but it’s worth it. So suck it up and jiggle, wiggle, shake and waddle in any way you need to, to get through it!

Trust me, the Ultrasound reception will be full of other ladies doing exactly the same!

Eventually, you will be invited into a room, for your twelve-week pregnancy scan.

What happens at the twelve-week pregnancy scan?

Your Sonographer or other practitioner will ask you to lie down on a couch and expose your tummy.

The best way to do this is to wear a separate top and bottoms and pull your top up and your bottoms down to expose the whole of your midriff.

This is not the appointment that you want to wear your best jumpsuit or bodycon dress to; save that for another day!

They will then tuck some paper or cloth around the top edge of your bottom clothing to stop them being covered in gel. A large dollop of this gel will be squirted on your abdomen. It’s usually freezing, so be prepared to jump a little bit!

Nothing better than freezing gel!

Your Sonographer will then dim the lights and your ultra-sound will begin!

The Sonographer will pass the ultrasound probe around your abdomen (in the gel!). A black and white image will appear on the Sonographer’s screen; you should then be able to see your baby!

Its important that the Sonographer gets a good look

The Sonographer will usually position their screen so that you can see what they are seeing. However, remember that it is more important that your Sonographer carries out all the necessary checks on your baby, than you getting a good look!

Be prepared that you might not be able to see the screen all the time if the Sonographer needs to move it so that they can see!

Most Sonographers understand that this is a very exciting time for parents to be, so they will usually ensure that you get to have a good look too!

Your scan will usually take somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes.

It might be uncomfortable, but it wont hurt!

Although it may be slightly uncomfortable as the Sonographer may have to apply slight pressure to different areas of your abdomen (pushing on your full bladder!) to get a clear image of your baby, it will not hurt!

The Sonographer will take a look at your baby from various angles to ensure that everything is developing as it should. They will take various measurements to check baby is growing properly and generate your Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD).

How does the 12 week scan date your pregnancy?

The Sonographer will measure the Crown to Rump length of your baby (from the top of their head to the bottom of their bottom).

This length is used to calculate your estimated date of delivery.

This may well be different from your original due date which is calculated using your last menstrual period.

Does your due date change after an ultra sound?

Sometimes, yes, your original due date will change following the results of your twelve-week pregnancy ultrasound.

Your original due date is calculated using your last menstrual period.

When you think about it, this can be wildly inaccurate. Its provides a generalised date but doesn’t take into account any variables like:

  • At what point you usually ovulate during your cycle,
  • Where during your cycle you conceived,
  • The date you actually had sex,
  • When baby was actually conceived, which of course might be several days after you actually had sex.

The estimated due date calculated during your twelve-week pregnancy scan, is much more accurate than the due date calculated using your last menstrual period. It will supersede your original due date, if it is a week or more different (earlier or later).

Can an ultra sound be wrong about your due date?

Ultrasound scans between 8 and 14 weeks pregnant are the most reliable method of dating your pregnancy.

Ultrasounds usually have a margin of error of about 1.4 weeks when carried out between 8 and 10 weeks.

After the 14 weeks, this margin of error increases dramatically as babies develop at to their own size at their own pace. Therefore the estimated due date produced at your twelve-week pregnancy scan, is the one that your professionals will stick with as a base line.

That does not mean that Sonographers and other professionals will get it 100% right every time.

The internet if full of stories from Mum’s who are convinced that their provided estimated due dates were wrong the whole way through their pregnancies.

They were wrong about my little brothers EDD – he’s 25 now!

My own Mum distinctly remembers thinking that her given EDD at her twelve-week scan with my brother was wrong.

She thought it put her further on in weeks pregnant with my little brother than she thought she was.

She was subsequently induced at 42 weeks as he was calculated to be late. It did turn out that he was in fact, not late at all!

Not having fully grown finger nails was a bit of a give-away! Saying that, the experience didn’t do either of them any harm; my dearest little brother is now, not so little at 25.

He was not early at all!

You probably have a fairly good guess as to when your baby was conceived. I know within a couple of days with this baby!

If you think your Estimated Due Date is wildly out, make sure that you discuss this with your midwife or your lead professional. They can then send you for further investigations, if necessary.

Relax about your estimated due date.

I know you are probably desperate to meet your baby. Ultimately babies tend to ignore any due dates anyway. They tend to arrive when they are damn good and ready (usually at the most inconvenient time, just to be awkward!).

Can I bring someone with me to my twelve-week ultrasound?

Usually hospitals allow you to bring one person into your ultrasound with you.

They do not usually allow children to accompany you. However, make sure you discuss this in advance with your hospital as the policy’s will differ from hospital to hospital.

If you can, take your partner, or person you want to be most involved in your pregnancy with you. It will give you both a lovely opportunity to both meet your baby, see that they are safe and sound in there, and see them wiggling for the first time!

Enjoy it! You don’t get many other opportunities to meet your little one until they’re born!

What happens if my scan finds a problem?

It is an unfortunate thing to have to say or to think about, but occasionally problems are found during the twelve-week pregnancy scan.

One of the main reasons to carry out the scan, is to ensure that any problems are detected, and dealt with as soon as possible during pregnancy.

Whilst it is right that you should be excited for your first scan, please try as best you can to prepare a little side-line area of your brain for the fact that everything might not all be perfect with baby or your pregnancy.

Don’t forget; the scan is primarily to detect any problems.

Some problems detected may be small. Other problems that are detected may not end up being problems at all. Some problems may lead to a recommendation that the pregnancy should be terminated.

If any problems are found, your Sonographer may ask another professional for a second opinion on your scan. If your Sonographer does invite another professional to take a look at your scan it doesn’t automatically mean that there is something wrong!

You may be offered further tests to confirm if there is a problem.

Your Sonographer, Midwife and other lead professionals will be able to advise you on what any problems mean, how they will proceed and if any further action needs to be taken.

You will be in the best hands, so let them help you, and ask any questions you need to.

Can I have a picture of my scan?

Most hospitals do allow for photos of your ultra sounds to be purchased. A lot will not allow you to take photos or videos during your ultrasound.

Get in contact with your hospital or Ultrasound Department to confirm what their policy is!

What happens next if all is well?

If everything appears to be well during your twelve-week pregnancy scan you will be sent on your way. Along with, hopefully, a picture of your baby – essential for the big reveal!

Your antenatal care will then carry on as normal!

Now comes the exciting bit; revealing your pregnancy to the big wide world, getting into those maternity clothes (ooh the comfort!) and looking forward to seeing baby again at your twenty-week scan!

You can find the NHS guidance on the twelve week pregnancy scan here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/dating-scan-ultrasound-10-11-12-13-weeks-pregnant/

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