What is an Ultrasound Scan?
An ultrasound scan sends sound waves through your womb (uterus). These waves bounce off from your baby as echoes. They are then converted into an image produced on the screen for you to see how your baby appears.
Bone and abdominal gas reflect the most waves and so make the biggest echoes which appear white on the image. The soft tissue appears in different shades of grey and amniotic fluid as black. This is because the sound waves can penetrate through them with no echoes reflected.
The person performing your scan is a qualified accredited registered Sonographer who can differentiate the various shades of grey and interpret the images and is able to give you your scan findings in the form of a report or images.
The first scan can be a very exciting experience for you and your partner and gives you a glimpse of your baby and develops a form of bonding with your baby. At UDC we can provide you with various obstetric packages at very reasonable prices and keepsake pictures delivered directly to your handheld Smartphone/iPad from our advanced technology incorporated within our latest State of the Art Equipment.
However creating beautiful pictures of your baby is not our only aim, the main purpose of our scan is to perform a diagnostic scan first to check how many babies you are carrying, assess the baby's heart beat, and its development by carrying out various growth measurements and also to check whether it's an ectopic* or a molar* pregnancy during your early pregnancy scan examination. Your first scan will mostly be around 6-16 weeks for various reasons, one of them being to reassure you, that your baby is alright and to date your pregnancy and give you an estimated due date (EDD). It will not show you the sex of the baby until 16 weeks when its mostly possible to find out, however we can never give you a 100% guarantee.
The first scan also checks your baby's heart beat, basic anatomy of the baby's head, abdominal wall and limbs and also performs the crown rump length (CRL) measurement to date the pregnancy. In the case of nuchal translucency (NT) scan, we perform the NT measurement first then carry out a blood test from the mother's arm, to calculate the risk assessment for the Down's screening test (Trisomy 21), Edwards (T18) and Patau(T13) from the (NT + blood test) combine test result.
Is Ultrasound Scan Safe?
Ultrasound scans have been used in pregnancy for the last nearly five decades and till to date have shown no adverse reaction or side effects have been documented. However to use the ultrasound safely in pregnancy there are various guidelines incorporated by the, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR), British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS) and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which we implement in our practice for the safety and diagnostic purpose of the scans that we deliver to our patients and clients alike.
The following safety measures are taken into account when delivering a diagnostic and non-diagnostic scans alike.
i) Examinations times are kept as short as necessary possible to provide a useful diagnostic result.
ii) Output levels are kept as low as reasonably possible to achieve a desired useful diagnostic result.
iii) Ultrasound equipment should only be used by trained medical professional.
iv) The trained medical professional operating the equipment should be aware of the machine output levels and should only use it for the purpose of achieving a diagnostic result and should aim to stay within the BMUS recommended safety scan times (especially for obstetric examinations)
v) Scans in pregnancy should not be carried out for the sole purpose of entertainment only by producing souvenir videos or pictures.
When can the ultrasound scan be carried out during pregnancy and what other adjunct tests are available to detect any abnormality in my baby?
According to NICE guidelines, there are only two scans offered in a normal pregnancy. An early dating scan/nuchal scan performed between 11-14 weeks and the anomaly scan performed between 18-20 weeks.
The early dating/nuchal scan can only be performed between 11-14 weeks with a combined screening test involving a blood sample being taken from the patient's arm is then used to determine the risk assessment of (Down's, Edward's and Patau's syndrome) chromosomal abnormality with a detection rate of only 85% is offered in the NHS.
At UDC we can offer you various scan packages to suit your requirements and needs. We are also able to offer you Harmony, a non invasive prenatal test (NIPT) with its > 99% detection rate is a preferable test to go for since it eliminates the invasive tests's like (CVS and Amniocentesis) which has a miscarriage rate of 1/2%. However it is important to perform an ultrasound scan before taking the NIPT test to confirm the pregnancy and to date the pregnancy, and this can be done from as early as 10 weeks. The early scan can also determine if it is a twin pregnancy or more. NIPT can now be used for twin or more, singleton donor or surrogate pregnancies.
What is a NIPT test and how is it performed?
A blood sample taken from the mother's arm at approximately 10 weeks of gestational age can be analysed for cell free fetal DNA, which is essentially a marker in the mother's blood of the baby's DNA. The result of this simple test has a detection rate of more than 99% of which hugely replaces the need for invasive tests like CVS and Amniocentesis. This is good news for the couples as it eliminates the risks of miscarriage in the pregnancy.
What preparations are needed for the pregnancy and gynae/pelvis and abdomen/renal ultrasound scan ?
Basically wear loose clothing and adequately fill the bladder for the pregnancy scans. If your baby is in an awkward position then the sonographer will ask you to go for a walk and drink more fluids and have something sweet to eat to make the baby move. Also if you have presented before 10 weeks sometimes it is not easy to see your baby from the trans abdominal scan alone so a trans vaginal scan may be offered to you whereby an endocavity/transvaginal probe may be used to perform the examination. However prior to performing the scan the sonographer will explain to you how the procedure is performed and obtain your informed consent and ask you to empty your bladder before proceeding with the trans vaginal scan.
For the gynae and renal (Kidneys) ultrasound scan a patient/client needs to attend with a full bladder. For Abdomen scan the patient/client has to fast for 5/6 hours prior to the scan and avoid any food with carbohydrate products or drink tea or coffee with milk. Instead they can have water or plain fruit juice.