19 Weeks Pregnant Ultrasound Scan: What to Expect

One of the most exciting parts about going through pregnancy is getting the chance to see your baby on an ultrasound!   Pregnant women usually get anywhere from one to three ultrasounds during their 9 months, unless they are high risk. If you are around the halfway point of your pregnancy journey, you are probably filled with anticipation and curiosity about the little one growing inside you. One of the most exciting milestones around this time is your 19 weeks pregnant ultrasound. This is not just a chance to catch another glimpse of your baby, but it is also an important opportunity for healthcare professionals to assess your baby’s development. Let us dive deeper into what you can expect and the key insights this ultrasound can provide.

For many, you have not seen your baby since early pregnancy, so the second trimester ultrasound comes as a much-anticipated event. You may feel a mix of both excitement and nervousness in the waiting room, especially if this is your first time, but try not to worry. 

At 19 weeks pregnant, your little one is around the size of a mango, measuring about 6 inches long and weighing around 8.5 ounces. This is a crucial time for your baby’s development as they are rapidly growing in size and strength. During the ultrasound, you can see details like their facial features, limbs, organs, and even their sex (if you choose to know). Read on to learn more important information about what to expect from this ultrasound.

This article is for informational purposes and does not give medical advice.  Always check with your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have.

What is the Anatomy Scan?

The anatomy scan, also sometimes called the level 2 ultrasound or anomaly scan, is typically performed around 18-20 weeks of pregnancy. This is around the halfway point of the pregnancy during the second trimester. This is the best time to view the fetal development.  It is a more detailed and comprehensive ultrasound compared to other earlier ultrasounds you may have had. 

An ultrasound works by using sound waves to create an image of your baby on a screen. This is usually done by an ultrasound technician and then by your healthcare provider. They apply a cool gel on your belly and use a wand-like device called a transducer to send sound waves into your body. The echoes from the sound waves are then converted into an image, allowing you to see your baby’s features and movements. 

The ultrasound is a screening test that is noninvasive and does not pose any harm to you or your baby. It usually takes about 30-45 minutes to complete, and you can usually bring your partner or loved ones with you to share this special experience.

This scan is not only able to capture images of your baby, but it also allows healthcare professionals to examine specific aspects of their growth and development. Ultimately, the scan is for medical reasons and not just to get cute pictures of your baby.

If you did not do the non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), then the ultrasound is usually when you find out the sex of your baby. This can be a very special and exciting moment for many expecting parents.

Lastly, the scan will give you a chance to ask your health care provider any questions you may have about your pregnancy or your baby. It is always a good idea to come prepared with any questions or concerns you may have. If you are still dealing with any bothersome pregnancy symptoms, such as lower back pain, leg cramps, or round ligament pain, be sure to mention it to your healthcare provider.  They can help you come up with some ways to alleviate the pain.

Remember, this is your opportunity to get a better understanding of what is going on with your baby and your body. You likely will not get another ultrasound until you are in the third trimester. Enjoy this chance to get a look at your developing baby!

A pregnant woman wearing a sweater holds a row of ultrasound photos.  Her husband stands behind her with his hand on her belly.

What Are Some Things That Can Be Seen During the Ultrasound?

As mentioned before, the anatomy scan is more detailed than earlier prenatal ultrasounds you had during the first trimester. Here are some of the key things that healthcare professionals will typically be looking for during this ultrasound:

1. Growth and Measurements

The technician will measure your baby’s fetal heart rate, head circumference, abdominal circumference, and femur length to track their growth. These measurements can also help estimate your due date if there are any discrepancies from the original estimated date.

Your healthcare provider will be able to estimate the size of the fetus based on the above measurements.  This is also an opportunity for them to check if your baby is growing at a healthy rate.

If the baby’s bones are measuring small, it could indicate a risk of growth restriction, while larger measurements could indicate a potential for gestational diabetes.  On the other hand, some babies are naturally smaller or larger than average.

Bone growth problems can also be detected through the ultrasound. This is important because bone growth issues may lead to other complications, such as heart problems or lung development issues.

2. Organs and Structures

The ultrasound can also provide a closer look at your baby’s internal organs and structures. Your doctor will look at the brain, heart, spine, kidneys, and limbs. This can help identify any potential abnormalities or concerns that may require further testing.

The umbilical cord will be checked to ensure it is functioning properly and that there are no knots or abnormalities.

Your health professional has a lot of things to look at. If the baby is not in the proper position, they may have trouble seeing key structures. You may asked to move to a different position or to get up and walk around for a minute.  In some cases, a follow-up ultrasound may be needed if the baby’s position is obstructing important views. Try not to panic! This does not mean anything is wrong with your baby, it is just their natural position in the womb causing a challenge for the ultrasound.

3. Placenta Position and Amniotic Fluid Levels

During the anatomy scan, healthcare professionals will also check the position of the placenta and the amount of amniotic fluid. This is important to ensure that your baby is receiving enough nutrients and oxygen for proper development.

Placenta previa, where the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix, can also be detected during this ultrasound.  In these cases, you will need to be monitored closely. You may possibly require a c-section for delivery if the placenta does not move off the cervix.

Placenta accreta, a condition where the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterine wall, may also be identified through ultrasound. This can lead to complications during delivery and may require special medical care.

4. Sex Determination

As mentioned earlier, the anatomy scan is usually when you can find out the fetal sex of the baby. However, this will depend on factors such as the position of your baby and their cooperation during the scan.

Remember, though this is a piece of information many expecting parents are excited to receive, it is important to keep in mind that the main purpose of this scan is not for determing the sex of the fetus. The main purpose is to check the baby’s growth and identify any potential health concerns.

Why Is the Anatomy Scan Important?

The anatomy scan is an important milestone in a pregnant woman’s journey for several reasons. Overall, this scan provides a comprehensive evaluation of your baby’s well-being and gives you a better understanding of your pregnancy progress. 

Remember, even if everything looks great during the anatomy scan, it is still important to continue attending regular prenatal appointments and communicate with your healthcare provider about any changes or concerns you may have throughout your pregnancy journey.

1. Early Detection of Potential Issues

This fetal ultrasound allows your medical provider to detect any potential issues or fetal abnormalities.  Early detection is crucial for prompt treatment or management to ensure the best outcomes for you and your developing fetus.

Some common issues that can be determined are down syndrome, neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, heart defects, and kidney abnormalities.  Signs of chromosomal abnormalities can be picked up on an ultrasound, but a diagnosis cannot always be given without further testing.

If any potential issues are seen, you may be asked to do further tests.  This could include a chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which involves taking a small sample of the placenta, or an amniocentesis, which involves taking a small sample of the amniotic fluid. You may also be asked to do a blood test or to see a specialist for more detailed testing.  These tests can provide more detailed information about your baby’s health and development. 

2. Peace of Mind for Expecting Parents

The anatomy scan can also provide peace of mind for many expecting parents. The detailed ultrasound examination of their baby’s development can offer reassurance and alleviate any worries or concerns they may have.  

For many parents, seeing their baby on the ultrasound screen can be a powerful bonding experience. This is especially true during the anatomy scan when you can see your baby’s features more clearly and hear their heartbeat.

Many offices offer the chance at a 3-D or 4-D ultrasound, which can further enhance the bonding experience by providing a more realistic view of your unborn baby.

You may walk away ready to name your baby, start buying things for your baby, and just feeling more connected to your little one than ever before.

3. Planning for the Future

The information gathered from the anatomy scan can also help expecting parents plan for the future. For example, if an issue is detected, you can be prepared for any necessary medical interventions or support that your baby may need after birth.  You may also be able to plan for any necessary accommodations or lifestyle changes to ensure the best possible outcome for your baby.

Additionally, knowing the fetal sex can help with planning and preparing for your baby’s arrival. Whether you choose to decorate the nursery in a specific theme or purchase clothing and other items tailored to your baby’s sex, this information can help you feel more prepared for your baby’s arrival.

An ultrasound tech is doing an ultrasound on a pregnant woman's belly.

Other Tips for the Anatomy Scan

Now that you understand what to expect from the anatomy scan, here are some additional tips to help you prepare for this important ultrasound:

  1. Drink plenty of water before the scan to ensure a full bladder, as this can provide a clearer ultrasound image.
  2. Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing that allows easy access to your belly. The scan is typically done as an transabdominal ultrasound, but could be a transvaginal ultrasound if the doctor needs to get a closer look at any part of the baby.
  3. Bring someone along with you for support and to share in the experience. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some clinics may have limitations on how many support persons can attend the appointment with you.
  4. Be prepared for the possibility of not being able to determine the sex of your baby during the scan. Sometimes the fetal position or other factors may make it difficult to see clearly.
  5. Remember that this scan is an important tool for monitoring your baby’s health and development, but it cannot detect everything. There are limitations of ultrasounds and some issues may not be apparent until after birth. Continue to communicate any concerns or changes in your pregnancy with your healthcare provider. 
  6. Other terms you may hear used to describe the scan are the “19-week scan”, “19-week ultrasound scan”, “fetal anatomy survey”, “morphology scan”, or the “20-week ultrasound appointment.”
  7. You may also hear the ultrasound referred to by some as a “reassurance scan”.  This is because it can provide reassurance to parents that they have a healthy baby that is growing and developing properly.  It is important to remember that this is not the primary purpose of the scan, so do not be alarmed if your healthcare provider does not use this term.
  8. Lastly, try to relax and enjoy this special moment seeing your baby on the ultrasound screen. This is an exciting time in your pregnancy journey, so take some time to appreciate the miracle of life growing within you. 

The anatomy scan is a crucial step in monitoring the well-being of your baby during pregnancy. It not only allows you to see your baby’s features and movements but also provides important information about their growth and development. Remember to prepare for the ultrasound by staying hydrated, wearing comfortable clothing, and bringing support along with you. This scan is an important tool, but it cannot detect everything, so continue to communicate with your medical team throughout your pregnancy journey. Overall, the anatomy scan is just one piece of the puzzle in monitoring your pregnancy progress.  So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy this special experience. Congratulations on your growing bundle of joy!  

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