12 Weeks Pregnant Scan: What To Expect

The 12 weeks pregnant scan is an exciting milestone in your pregnancy journey. During this ultrasound, also known as the nuchal translucency test, the doctor will check on the baby’s development and look for any potential issues.  The scan is performed at 12 weeks of pregnancy, or the end of your first trimester. This is the earliest point that most of the baby’s vital organs and systems can be seen. It is a combined test that involves a scan of the baby as well as blood tests to detect any chromosomal anomalies.

An ultrasound works by using sound waves to create an image of the baby in the womb.  Ultrasound gel is used to help the sound waves move through the uterus and create a clear image. The test is considered very safe for pregnant women and their babies.  It can be a nerve-wracking experience, but there are some things you can do to make sure you get the most out of your 12 week ultrasound. In this blog post we will discuss what happens during this ultrasound, how to prepare for it, and what questions you should ask at your appointment. With these tips in hand, you will be ready to take on the nuchal translucency screening with confidence!

This article does not give medical advice.  It is always a good idea to check with your health professionals with any questions or concerns you may have.

What is the 12 Week Ultrasound Testing For?

The 12-week scan is a screening test at the end of the first trimester. It is usually a transabdominal ultrasound that is designed to assess the baby’s growth and development and check for any potential problems. This is likely not your first scan, as you would have had a dating ultrasound during your early pregnancy.  If the doctor is not able to get a good view, they may have to perform a transvaginal ultrasound exam to get a closer look.  This can happen if the baby is in an awkward position or if they have something they need to take a closer look at.

The doctor will measure the size of your baby and check on the fetal anatomy.  They will look at the baby’s limbs, head, spine, arms, and legs to make sure they are developing properly. They will also check for any signs of birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities. These conditions can include Down Syndrome, Edwards’ Syndrome, or other genetic conditions. Finally, they will assess your placenta to make sure it is functioning properly. After the scan, the doctor will discuss their findings with you and answer any questions that you may have. 

This scan is also sometimes referred to as the nuchal translucency scan (NT scan). It looks at the thickness of fluid at the back of baby’s neck (nuchal translucency).  If the fluid is too thick, it could be an indicator of chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down’s Syndrome or other health conditions. 

During this early scan, your healthcare provider will also do a general check of the mother. The ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes will be checked for any abnormalities.   Your health care provider will also check the umbilical cord, the amount of fluid you have, and can confirm your estimated due date. 

The exact tests that are included in the 12 week scan will vary depending on your individual circumstances. Your maternity care provider may also order additional tests if needed. 

A row of ultrasound pictures lays on a white surface.  Some oranges lay next to the pictures.

Will the Nuchal Scan Tell Me the Sex of the Baby?

Whether you are first time parents or seasoned parents, you are probably excited to find out if you are having a boy or a girl!  Your doctor or ultrasound tech may be able to guess the sex of your developing baby, but the 12-week mark is usually still too early to be 100% sure by ultrasound examination alone.  

The nub theory is popular and claims to be able to predict the baby’s sex at 12 weeks. This theory looks at certain features on the ultrasound image such as the shape of the spine and position of the legs in relation to each other. However, it is important to remember that this is not a reliable or scientifically proven method for predicting gender and should not be used instead of medical advice from your doctor.

How Should I Prepare for my 12-Week Ultrasound Scan?

There are a few steps you can take to make sure your 12 week ultrasound appointment runs smoothly and safely: 

• Be sure to drink lots of water to have a full bladder.  This helps the doctor get a clearer ultrasound image of your baby on the scan. 

• Dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather, as you could be asked to undress from the waist down.  You are usually provided with either a tissue paper or cloth drape to put over your lower half if you are having a transvaginal ultrasound.

• Make sure that you have read all information given to you by your doctor and know what questions to ask during the appointment. 

• Bring a friend or family member with you for emotional support, if needed. 

• Allow extra travel time, as the appointment may take longer than expected. 

What Questions Should I Ask at my 12 Week Ultrasound?

Your doctor is the best person to answer any questions you may have about your pregnancy. It is important to come prepared with a list of questions. 

Here are some examples: 

• Is everything progressing normally for my baby at this stage of pregnancy? 

• Are there any signs of potential problems or abnormalities? 

• At how many weeks gestation is the next ultrasound? 

• Are there any tests or screenings I should consider for my baby’s health and development? 

• Is there any reason why I would be considered high risk at this point?

• If you have any medical conditions, now is the time to ask your doctor if they will have an impact on your pregnancy.

A woman wears a white dress and holds an ultrasound picture in front of her belly.

What If My Scan Comes Back Abnormal?

The majority of women who go through the nuchal transluency test and further testing will have normal results.   However, if the scan or blood test results reveal an abnormality or a potential issue, it is important to follow up with your doctor. Your doctor will discuss what steps you should take. They will provide the appropriate testing and referrals to ensure the health of both you and your baby. 

It is important to remember that this scan does not tell you for certain whether your baby has any medical abnormalities or problems. It merely provides a risk assessment. You will come back as either low risk or high risk. Low risk means that your baby is likely to be healthy. High risk means that there is an increased chance of a problem or abnormality. If this is the case, you will be referred to specialists. The next step is to speak with your doctor about the results and whether further testing would be needed to confirm any potential issues. 

Further tests can rule out or confirm chromosomal disorders or other health conditions.  Remember, this is a diagnostic test, but will require further information before any decisions can be made. 

A chorionic villus sampling (CVS) test can also be recommended if your doctor suspects a chromosomal abnormality or other health issues. This test involves taking a sample of the placenta to analyze for genetic disorders.  It does carry a small risk of miscarriage. 

An amniocentisis test may also be recommended for further information. This test involves taking a sample of amniotic fluid to check for any abnormalities in the fetal DNA. This test also has a small risk of miscarriage.

It is important to discuss all your options with your doctor. Take time to make sure that any decisions you are making are right for you and your baby.

The 12 week pregnant ultrasound scan is an important milestone in your pregnancy journey. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare for it can help take away any anxiety or fear you may have about the appointment. Make sure you are prepared with any questions. Be honest and open with your doctor so they can best address any concerns or issues.  It is also important to remember that the scan is there to provide useful information.  Even if you come back as high risk, it does not mean there is a problem.  Your doctor will help you determine the next steps to take to get you the answers you need. So, take some time to relax and try to enjoy this experience! 

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