First Pregnancy Scan: When It Happens And What To Expect

Your first pregnancy scan can be very exciting, worrying, and every other emotion you can think of. It can help to put any nerves you may have at ease if you know what to expect, and what exactly the scan is for.


first pregnancy scan


What Is A Pregnancy Scan?


A pregnancy scan is also called an ultrasound scan. A sonographer uses sound waves to get an image of your baby. Essentially what happens is that the sound waves bounce off the baby as vibrations and echoes. These vibrations and echoes are translated to show the images on the monitor.


When Is The First Pregnancy Scan?


You might hear your first pregnancy scan called the 12-week scan. This is because it’s often scheduled for around week 12 of your pregnancy. It can also be called a dating scan. Some hospitals and healthcare providers prefer to schedule the first pregnancy scan earlier.


6 To 8 Weeks


Some healthcare providers will carry out a pregnancy scan during the initial prenatal appointment. Sometimes this is done as part of the providers routine practice, but sometimes, it can be advised if the pregnancy is considered ‘high-risk’. This could be due to age, symptoms, or medical complications.


10 To 14 Weeks


Most women will have their first pregnancy scan around 12 weeks of pregnancy. At this stage, it’s most often an abdominal scan. The sonographer will measure your baby, and make sure that the size matches to the date of your last period. Women who have irregular periods may notice a discrepancy between the dates, which is one of the reasons why this dating scan is very important.

You might be offered a nuchal translucency test, or an NT test. This is a test that can show the risk of chromosomal abnormalities, and some congenital heart disorders. The test involves an additional ultrasound to look for specific measurements.


18 To 21 Weeks


This scan is sometimes called the mid-pregnancy scan, which is when the sonographer checks for 11 physical conditions that your baby may have. They may also be able to tell the gender at this scan if you baby is co-operative.


What To Expect At The First Pregnancy Scan


Your midwife will probably refer you to your local hospital for your scan. Depending on the stage and specifics of your pregnancy, this may be an internal scan or external scan.


Internal Scan


For this scan, a small wand shaped probe with a cover is inserted into the vagina. It may cause some discomfort but shouldn’t be painful, and it will allow the technician a detailed look at your body.


External Scan


It’s very common for your first pregnancy scan to be an external scan. The sonographer will cover your abdomen in a lubricant and move the device across that area. You may feel some pressure as they do so. You shouldn’t feel any discomfort, but the sensation of the gel on your skin is often cold.


Preparing For Your First Pregnancy Scan


Most hospitals or healthcare providers will send you a list of instructions with your appointment letter. In early pregnancy, you will probably be asked to make sure that your bladder is completely full before the scan. This is because it can help make the scan clearer and easier to see. The soundwaves used in an ultrasound scan pass through liquid better.

It can also be a good idea to wear loose, comfortable clothing that will be easily moved for the scan. You may end up with some of the ultrasound lubricant on your clothes, but it should wash out as good as new.