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Pregnancy scans - what to expect and how to prepare

What to expect

How many scans must I have in my pregnancy?

Maternity professionals recommend that you have at least two scans - a nuchal scan at 12 weeks and the anomaly scan at 20 weeks. Both of these scans are offered on the NHS. If you have previously miscarried or have worrying bleeding you may want to have an early pregnancy scan. Or your midwife or obstetrician might suggest a welfare or growth scan if your baby is small or growing slower than expected. These scans are not usually available on the NHS.

Who will perform my ultrasound examination?

Your ultrasound scan will be performed by one of our experienced and highly qualified experts. During weekdays you may choose to see a particular sonographer or Consultant Obstetrician or Gynaecologist.  On weekends, our team work on a rota and it may not be possible to choose a particular member of our staff to perform your scan.

How long will it take?

If you are having a scan for a single pregnancy you can expect your appointment to take around 20 to 30 minutes. If you have a multiple pregnancy, require a complex procedure, or have booked a consultation, your appointment will take longer.

What happens during a scan?

  • You lie back and relax on our ultrasound couch which is electronically adjusted for your comfort.
  • Clear, warmed gel is squirted on to your tummy – the gel is water-based, harmless and won’t damage your clothing.
  • The sonographer or consultant places the ultrasound transducer on the gel and directs it towards your pelvis – this is called transabdominal scanning.
  • Sometimes in early pregnancy or for gynaecological scans the sonographer or consultant will need to perform an internal scan – for this a long thin probe is inserted into the birth canal. This known as transvaginal scanning, it is not painful and usually produces the most accurate images.
  • Sometimes the transducer is placed external to the birth canal when we need to look specifically at the muscles of the pelvic floor – this is called transperineal scanning.

When will I get the results of my scan?

Routine pregnancy or gynaecological scans - you will receive your printed report immediately after your scan. Your sonographer or consultant will discuss their findings during your appointment. If there is anything on the scan report that you would like explaining, please ask before you leave the scanning room.
First trimester nuchal scan and Down’s Syndrome screening – Provided you have given a blood sample at least two days in advance of your appointment, you will receive your results during your appointment.
Quadruple test, amniocentesis or CVS – the laboratory results for these more complex procedures take at least 4 working days for the initial result and 10 days or more for cultured specimens.
Fetal heart scans – a report will take 24-48 hours to be finalised.
Harmony test – the laboratory for this test is in the USA and they quote 15 days turnaround time. In our experience it usually takes less than 2 weeks to receive the results.

Will I get a picture from my scan?

Pregnancy scans - yes, you’ll receive a complimentary glossy thermal print (or prints for multiple pregnancies). For more details about what additional images are available please see our price list.

Gynaecology scans - no, not unless it is specifically requested by your clinical carer. GPs and Gynaecologists don’t usually need to examine pictures from your gynaecological scan, they simply want to know our interpretation of what we have looked at and what we may have found. However, if you would like a complimentary glossy thermal print please ask the operator at the time of your scan, any additional prints can be purchased.

Can you tell me the gender of my baby?

Yes, we can tell the gender of your baby from 14 weeks gestation. During any routine scan from 14 weeks onwards there is no additional charge to reveal your baby’s sex. We also offer gender identification scan appointments specifically to determine the gender of your baby. Read more (link to gender identification scans)
Will the gender of my baby be on the scan report?

For gender identification scan appointments we provide a written report detailing your baby’s sex along with measurement and charts from your growth scan.

The sex of your baby isn’t normally recorded on any of our medical scan reports as the gender has no bearing on the health and well being of your baby. If you would like the gender added to the report please let the sonographer or consultant know during your appointment.

How to prepare

We want you to get the most out of your visit and to feel relaxed when you are with us. Here are a few tips to help.

Give yourself time to relax

  • Arrive a few minutes before your appointment to give yourself time to relax before your scan.
  • If it’s your first visit, give yourself an extra 15 minutes to allow time to complete a registration form.
  • If your partner or companion is travelling separately, it’s worth asking them to arrive early too.

Do I need to arrive with a full bladder?

It can help. Please come with a full bladder for early pregnancy scans, nuchal scans, gender identification scans up to 20 weeks and all gynaecological and fertility scans. If you aren’t able to arrive with a full bladder your appointment may be delayed and we may ask you to wait in the patient lounge and drink lots of water. Scans performed in later pregnancy do not need a full bladder and internal scans are best performed with an empty bladder.

What should I wear?

For most routine scans we need to see your tummy from the belly button down to the pubic bone, so loose adjustable clothing is practical. For an internal scan it will be necessary to remove all clothing below the waist – we will give you a white towel to wrap around you to preserve your modesty during this procedure. You will be asked to remove all high-heeled shoes before lying on the ultrasound couch. The warm, ultrasound jelly that we use is water-based and will not mark your clothing.

What should I bring with me?

For pregnancy scans - please bring any pregnancy notes and previous scan reports to your appointment so that the sonographer or consultant can refer to them.

  • If you are having a CVS or amniocentesis please bring details of your blood group with you. If you do not know your blood group we can arrange for a blood test to be performed on the same day at an additional cost.
  • If you are attending for a 4D scan please bring a sweet drink or snack, which may be needed to stimulate your baby and help it to move into a better position.

For gynaecology scans - please bring any gynaecological notes and previous clinical reports to your appointment so that our sonographer or consultant can refer to them. If you don’t have any notes the sonographer or consultant will speak with you before your scan to discuss your gynaecological history. This information provides vital details as to why you are having the scan, what to look for and what things might look like.

Can I bring friends or family to watch my pregnancy scan?

Yes, we have space for up to four people to watch the scan images on a large, high definition plasma screen.

Can children watch?

Yes, but we do ask that young children are supervised by an adult who is not being scanned. Also, although the scanning procedure is exciting for adults, children often become bored. To ensure you receive the best, most accurate examination we do ask, in some circumstances, that children leave the scanning suite accompanied by an adult for the remainder of the appointment. If an internal scan is necessary it may be appropriate for children to leave the scanning suite.