Many women in Somerset are now choosing to have private scans in their pregnancy. What kind of scans are there and which would suit you?
A private early pregnancy scan is generally performed between 6 and 12 weeks. 6 weeks after the first day of your last period – the first day being day 1 of full flow before noon. This is when the heartbeat can first be seen. You may like to book this scan to feel reassured at an early stage in your pregnancy, that the baby is well and located in the right place (not “ectopic” or in the fallopian tubes). It is also lovely to find out that bit earlier, if you are expecting twins! Some pregnancies start as twins early on but then continue as just a single baby. Knowing about this can be helpful when it comes to choosing a down’s syndrome screening test as it will preclude some options. If you have had a miscarriage before, then a private early scan can be really helpful and you may wish to book more than one scan.
Some ladies will come at 6-7 weeks and again at 9-10 weeks, to help them cope with those nerve wracking early days. The baby will be measured each time and it is joyful (and reassuring!) to see it’s growth. Nothing beats the magic of seeing your baby kicking and moving with its tiny arms and legs from 10 weeks onwards! Please note that a “doppler” to listen to the heartbeat should not be performed at this stage.
The first NHS scan is at around 12 weeks, and must be completed by 14+1. If your periods are irregular it is sensible to book a private early scan before this, to make sure that the window for your NHS scan is not missed. The purpose of the NHS 12 week scan is to check your baby is in the right place, check for twins, and check the heartbeat and size of baby. A due date will be given from the size of your baby at this scan. The thickness of the skin at the back of the baby’s neck will be measured (nuchal translucency) and this should be within a range. If it is elevated then additional scans or tests will be offered to look for problems that can sometimes be linked to this. A screening test for Down’s syndrome will be offered to all women, with a detection rate of approximately 85%.
A private non invasive prenatal test or NIPT is available to book from 10 weeks of pregnancy onwards. This is a blood test which checks for Down’s syndrome, with a 99% detection rate (meaning that 99% of affected babies will be picked up by the test). At Somerset Early Scans we use Harmony as it has a very high detection rate of 99.7%. It is not an easy conversation to have – but important to discuss with your partner in early pregnancy, whether you would like to have your baby checked for Down’s syndrome or not. If you do wish to have screening, an NIPT is worth paying for privately, as it is less likely that it would miss an affected baby.
In the second trimester, 12-24 weeks of pregnancy, the next NHS scan would for most women be the 20 week anomaly scan. This is an examination of your baby’s anatomy to check for structural problems that can usually (but not always) be seen on ultrasound. If the baby’s gender is visible usually you will have the option to find this out at the same time.
For some women who have had previous pregnancy problems, a private second trimester viability scan is a wonderful way to see your baby again and check its’ heartbeat – and movements before you can feel them! You can choose to have a basic scan, or a more detailed one, checking some of the baby’s anatomy that can be seen before the 20 week anomaly scan. Most babies will be healthy but if there is a problem, it is helpful to find out as early as possible giving plenty of time to get expert advice, think and plan. We call this more detailed scan a detailed second trimester viability scan.
Private gender scans are incredibly popular. Finding out whether you are expecting a girl or a boy is one of life’s incredible experiences. 16 weeks is the best earliest time to look. Before this it will be less accurate. In our private clinic this can feel more special than at your NHS scan – you will have time in your appointment and choice about how the news is given to you. Everyone is different. Some choose to have it written down, and share the news with loved ones later. We have confetti crackers, cannons and scratch cards to choose from in clinic to help you celebrate!
If your pregnancy is straight forwards, your NHS 20 week anomaly scan will usually be the last scan before you meet your baby. It is now possible to book a private 4D scan. Initially a sceptic, I am now a total convert to these scans as they can be a really magical way to see your baby again! Standard ultrasound looks in 2 dimensions at the baby and gives a cross section view. 4D scans can view the 3rd dimension so that a lifelike image of your baby can be seen. The 4th dimension is the real time nature of the scan so that movements such as thumb sucking, yawning can often be seen.
The best time to come for a 4d scan is 24-29 weeks as the baby is now chubby enough to look like a baby! There is still usually space around the baby which helps with getting good images. Later on in pregnancy the baby is often so snug up against the wall of the womb that we don’t much of an amniotic fluid gap to act as a window of view and images can be poor. At Somerset Early Scans we always check your baby’s growth by measuring the head and abdominal circumference and cross referencing this with your pregnancy dates. Please bring your NHS maternity notes so we can see previous measurements.
The NHS is unable to offer growth scans to all women which means that some babies with growth problems are missed. A private growth scan is a good idea in the third trimester between 28-40 weeks – again please bring your handheld maternity notes as we will need to check the trajectory of measurements against previous scans.
Babies like to be born head first. Some try to come out bottom first (breech). For a breech delivery there is good evidence that caesarean section is generally safer than vaginal birth. Your midwife will check your baby’s orientation by feeling your tummy. This will mostly be accurate but some breech babies manage to fool even the most experienced of midwives and turn up in labour unexpectedly the wrong way round! A private presentation scan will check your baby’s position and is best done at 36 weeks. Depending on your gestation (number of weeks pregnant) we will also check aspects of the baby’s growth and wellbeing.
I hope this has helped to explain the various types of private pregnancy scan ladies in Taunton, Bath and Somerset are choosing. Our clinic has been inspected by the governments healthcare watchdog and rated as “good” overall, “outstanding” for its leadership. We were also runners up in the Somerset Business Awards 2021 for Service excellence!