Updated: Oct 12
More than 800,000 people in the U.K. fall pregnant each year, according to the latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics.
Perhaps you or someone you love is one of the hundreds of thousands with a baby on the way. Indeed, there’s a lot to think about in the 37 to 42 weeks before you give birth.
As you read and learn about all you should do in the lead up to delivery, you’ve likely come across the suggestion that you have baby scans throughout your gestation period. Ultrasounds give you and doctors a view into the womb to see the baby, check the heartbeat and make sure everything is going to plan.
Still, you have a few questions about this service. Namely, you wonder, are baby scans safe?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Are Baby Scans Safe?
Let’s get your most pressing question out of the way first. Yes, ultrasounds are safe. Doctors have relied on this technology for decades, and those trained to use it will do so properly.
The ultrasound works by sending sound waves into your womb that reach the developing baby. These waves don’t harm the little one. Instead, they bounce off the baby’s frame, and ultrasound technology transforms the reverberation into an image you can see on screen.
Your technician will adjust the frequency of the ultrasound so that it’s safe for your baby at its current size. Don’t worry about the small amount of heat generated by the scanning device’s wand, either. The most common type of scans, which produce two-dimensional images of the baby, produce a negligible amount of warmth — nothing that will hurt your child.
On top of that, the baby floats in a fluid while in utero. This fluid regulates their temperature, and the lukewarm ultrasound wand won’t override this natural thermostat.
You might also be interested in a 3D or 4D baby scan. The former uses the same technology as a 2D scan, but it converts the flat images into a three-dimensional picture. Therefore, the 3d scans are safe throughout the duration of your pregnancy.
Your doctor will be more careful when it comes to 4D scans, though. experts recommend having a 4D baby scan only after you’ve reached the 20-week benchmark in your pregnancy. To create a video of your baby, the wand will have to create a bit more heat, which is safe, but, out of an abundance of caution, should be kept from smaller foetuses.
If you need further reassurance, there’s no link between baby scans and any common health issues, including hearing and vision problems, dyslexia, childhood cancer or unhealthy birth weight. Just ask the people you know who have delivered healthy little ones: we bet all of them have had baby scans during their pregnancies. Knowing that should make you feel more secure in signing up for a scan of your own.
How Many Baby Scans Are Safe?
Most women will have two ultrasounds during their pregnancies.
The Dating Scan
Some refer to the first scan as the dating scan. This takes place between 8 and 15 weeks into your pregnancy. It allows your doctor to determine when you’re due.
Obviously, this is vital information to you and your healthcare team. You’ll want to plan for your labour and delivery, as well as all of the fun baby prep — who wants to decorate the nursery and buy baby clothes?
Many parents look forward to the 12-week scan after having a few positive at-home pregnancy tests. This check-up gives them peace of mind that everything’s going well and that the baby has made it through the first trimester.
And making it through those first 12 weeks is vital to your baby’s growth and development. During those three months, the foetus will start to develop its bodily systems and organs.
Most miscarriages take place during the first trimester, so having a successful 12-week check-up should assure you that things are going well and will continue that way.
The Mid-Pregnancy Scan
Your second must-have scan will come in the middle of your gestation period.
This scan confirms that your baby has continued to develop according to plan. On top of that, it gives your technician the chance to spot 11 conditions that could affect your baby’s health, such as a cleft lip or spina bifida. The sonographer can’t see every potential issue, but the 20-week scan gives them the chance to rule out major health conditions.
Again, these types of discoveries are rare, so don’t skip your ultrasound out of fear. Instead, it’s a great way to ease your mind and know that your baby is healthy and developing as they should ahead of your impending due date.
Your doctor might recommend you for one or two more baby scans, depending on your health and how your pregnancy is going.
But you can also choose to have an extra scan or two if you want to see your baby or learn more about them.
The Gender Scan
For instance, at 15 weeks, you might come to see us for a gender scan. That’s the earliest that a sonographer can determine the sex of an unborn child. If you simply can’t wait for your 20-week meeting with your doctor, then you might consider adding a gender scan to your calendar.
The 24-Week Scan
You can also opt to have 4D scans further into your pregnancy for a clearer picture of your baby-to-be. We find that between 22 and 30 weeks, we can get the clearest picture of your baby’s face.
For many parents, this is a must-have service — if only to quell their pre-baby excitement. Plus, you get to see the baby’s facial features and decide who they look like. Perhaps seeing your baby’s face in 3D will help you choose a name!
Of course, these additional scans will provide you with all of the medical information that you want from an ultrasound. We will check your baby’s health markers and make sure they’re the right size and weight.
At the end of your scan, you’ll have photos — or a video — of your baby to share with others, too. Until you can meet your little one face to face, it’s an amazing keepsake to have.
Is There Anything Else I Can Do to Make Sure My Baby Scans Are Safe?
Now that you understand how scans work and when you’ll need them, you may wonder if there’s anything else you should know about ultrasounds before signing up.
Our best advice is to find a well-trained and experienced sonographer with all of the required U.K. credentials. Our sonographers are registered with the HCPC, and all partake in continuing education to keep their skills and methods up-to-date.
Beyond that, though, you should feel comfortable signing up for ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy. A well-trained and versed sonographer will know how to safely scan your womb. It won’t get too warm or cause damage — you’ll just experience the pure joy of seeing your baby before you hold them in your arms.
I’m Ready for a Baby Scan — Now What?
Learning just how safe an ultrasound has you ready to schedule your first — and we can’t blame you. It’s exciting to see your baby and reassuring to have a sonographer tell you that all is going to plan.
You’ll first want to make sure that you’re far enough along for your first of the baby scans. We can see you as early as six weeks into your pregnancy to ensure everything is going well.
And you can come to see us at multiple points throughout your pregnancy to check up on and see your baby. We helm the early scan, as well as the 15-week gender scan and the 4D scans for video footage of the foetus. Your GP can recommend you to a sonographer for the medical check-ups required at 12 and 20 weeks.
But don’t hesitate to contact us today to come in for one of our ultrasound services. You can schedule an appointment through our website or call us to plan your visit.
Either way, you’re one step away from seeing your baby, perhaps for the first time. And, when you do, your worries about ultrasound safety will melt away. For one thing, you’ll have an experienced sonographer helping you, which will ease your worries.
More importantly, though, you’ll only be looking at your future son or daughter. And that’s a feeling that no one can describe, one that will make you happy that you signed up for your baby scans with us.