Your Very First Pregnancy Scan

You can take your first ultrasound scan as soon as you suspect that you’re pregnant due to a pregnancy home test. This can be as early as four weeks, yet an internal transvaginal probe may be used before 7-8 weeks. The main reason for taking this first scan, also called a “viability scan”, “dating scan” or the “early pregnancy scan”, is to confirm your pregnancy – and whether it’s a single pregnancy or a twin pregnancy. The presence of the father is welcome at the first appointment, as mums feel more comfortable with the support of a partner at this very first scan. Here are more things to expect from your first scan:

Calculation of the estimated due date

The estimated due date (EDD) is the approximate date at which you should expect to deliver the baby. The early pregnancy scan is also called a “dating scan” because it estimates your stage of pregnancy and the delivery date. The EDD is calculated based on the date of your last menstrual cycle and other factors like the stage of the pregnancy progress observed during your scan appointment.

Checking for single or twin pregnancy

After the embryo has formed, the sonographer will be able to see if, well, two embryos have formed. Identical twins are at first formed from a single embryo that later divides, so it is possible that one twin may be missed at your first scan, especially if you carry out the scan earlier than 6 weeks.

A scan report

Notes are recorded on a written report during the first ultrasound scan. You can take this report with you at the end of the scan. Keep it for future references at doctor appointments and later pregnancy scans.

Ultrasound images of your baby

At Baby Scan Clinic, we offer two glossy images on the day of the scan, for you to take away. These images make a great addition to a baby album.

How to prepare for the early pregnancy scan

Eat and drink as normal on the day of your appointment and wear lose clothing if possible. Ultrasound images are clearer with a full bladder, which is why we recommend to drink a pint of water in the hour leading to your scan appointment without emptying your bladder.

Read more about what the Early Pregnancy Scan entails at our clinic and the benefits you get. (Hint: mistery gift ahead)

 

Best Times to Get a Pregnancy Ultrasound

After your first appointment with your OB doctor, it is advised to make a planner for your pregnancy scans and tests. Although most scans can be taken in a flexible period of time, for some ultrasounds there is an optimal time frame.

11 Weeks – the Early Pregnancy Scan

This is the first baby scan you can take and one of the most important ones. The early pregnancy scan, also called a viability scan or a dating scan, confirms pregnancy, calculates your estimated due date and checks for twin pregnancy. It can be taken starting with week 7 of pregnancy. The scan images will not show much, but their symbolic value makes them a precious memory.

12 Weeks – the NT Scan

The NT scan is carried out at 11 to 13 weeks and is designed to provide initial measurements of your baby and identify the risk for Down syndrome and other abnormalities. Screening tests for Down syndrome are also taken at 12 or 13 weeks.

16 – 24 Weeks – the Growth Scan

The best time for a growth scan is the one recommended by your doctor. This baby scan can be taken several times and records measurements of your baby. These measurements are compared to the average sizes. The purpose is to track your baby’s development and make sure that your pregnancy progresses as planned.

20 Weeks – the Anomaly Scan

The Anomaly Scan is a notable pregnancy scan, carried out between 18 and 21 weeks. The sonographer will look at the scan in detail to analyse specific anatomical structures.

20 – 36 Weeks – the Gender Scan

The best time to take a scan for finding out the gender is after week 20. The gender scan can also be carried out earlier, at 17 weeks.

26 – 29 Weeks – the 3D/4D Scan and HD Live Scan

The 3D, 4D and HD Live scans can be carried out between 17 and 32 weeks, but the best time for a really cute picture of your baby is after week 26 and before week 30. Before 26 weeks, your baby’s skin is very transparent and you will not be able to see your baby’s face very clearly. After week 30, the chances to see your baby’s face at all are small.

32 Weeks – the Wellbeing Scan

Also called the Late Pregnancy Scan, this ultrasound is carried out between 25 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Checking the overall wellbeing of your baby indicates how your baby is prepossessing before the big day.

How to Know If You Are Pregnant

Most women learn if they are pregnant or not in the first two months since conception. Pregnancy home tests and blood tests are not 100% reliable and an ultrasound won’t tell you much in the first month. Ultrasounds can check for pregnancy in the second month of pregnancy, but in some situations only a viability scan in the seventh week will accurately confirm your pregnancy.

The home pregnancy test

Home pregnancy tests detect if your urine contains hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone. This is produced after conception and fertilization, although elevated levels of hCG can also be produced by a cancerous tumour.

Home pregnancy tests are easy to take and read in the privacy of your home, which is very convenient. Most women take this test a few days after noticing a missed period – which is another first sign of being pregnant.  You can take the test earlier if you know that it’s possible to be pregnant, but the test will be less accurate.

The accuracy of urine pregnancy tests is about 97% if the test is taken correctly. Follow the instructions inside the package and take the test in the morning – that is when the urine is most concentrated.

After taking the test, schedule an appointment with your doctor for confirmation of pregnancy through more sensitive tests.

The blood test

Blood tests are more accurate than urine tests and are performed at a clinic. You will not get the results right away. Only schedule an appointment for a blood test if a least a week from a missed period has passed. After this week, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re pregnant, so you are ready to take further tests. Pregnancy tests – both urine and blood tests – are much more accurate after that week.

The Early Pregnancy Scan

Also called a Viability scan, this is an ultrasound carried at weeks 7-11. The sonographer can detect pregnancy earlier than that, but sometimes the scans are not clear before week seven. The nicest thing about the Early Pregnancy scan is the picture. At our clinic, you will get two printed images from this scan, to take away and share with your close ones.

Your doctor will also calculate you EDD (estimated due date) at this appointment and check for twin pregnancy. For clear results, drink a pint of water and do not empty your bladder in the hour before your scan appointment.

Top Questions in Early Pregnancy

When does morning sickness start?

Morning sickness symptoms are caused by the pregnancy hormones in your body and for most women it starts around the 6th week. You might experience nausea from particular smells or foods. Read more on what morning sickness is and how to cope with it. As you advance in the second trimester, your morning sickness and nausea symptoms should ease up.

When will my pregnancy bump show?

If this is your first pregnancy, a bump will only be visible at the start of the second trimester, around weeks 12-16. If it is not your first pregnancy, your bump may be visible sooner, because belly muscles may be still stretched from your last pregnancy. Body weight, age and genes are also factors that influence how soon you will start to show a bump. If your bump shows too early, you might consider booking an appointment for an ultrasound scan to calculate the due date.

When will I have my first baby scan?

The very first scan you can take is the early pregnancy scan, which confirms whether you are pregnant or not and calculates your estimated due date. Twin pregnancy can be detected with this ultrasound. Also called viability scan, the early pregnancy scan can be taken from week 7 to week 11 of pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife might recommend this scan especially if you have had miscarriages or complications during previous pregnancies.

How soon does frequent urination start?

Frequent urination is one of the first signs of pregnancy, and will be at its peak during the first and last trimester. This is caused by the shrinkage of your bladder and by the fact that your body will start to produce more urine during pregnancy. This is a symptom you’ll have to get used to, as there is not much to do to reduce it. It’s important that you continue to drink the necessary amount of fluids. Try to give up caffeinated drinks, as these make you urinate more often and do not hydrate your body very much.

Why am I so emotional during pregnancy?

Mood swings are a common symptom during the first trimester of pregnancy. There’s not much reason to worry if you’re going from calm to irritation in seconds or if you’re feeling that your emotions are not as balanced as before. Mood swings are caused by the increase of pregnancy hormones in your body, as well as by the fact that there are many changes you need to go through during pregnancy. During the second trimester, mood swings should disappear. Read more about how to cope with mood swings and other common symptoms during early pregnancy.

The 9th Week of Pregnancy

As you’re advancing into the 3rd month of pregnancy, your baby keeps busy growing. The little one is now almost one inch long and is starting to get the baby-like look more and more each day. The eyes, nose and mouth are becoming more distinct, while tiny ear buds are appearing. Eyes will stay shut for another 5 months, but they have already developed. The essential organs have formed by now and they continue to develop and perfect their functions. Your placenta has more complex functions and has started to produce nutrients and to eliminate waste. You can’t feel anything by touching your belly just yet, but you might hear it. Around this time, your baby’s heart beat should be audible with a Doppler device, so make sure to ask for it at your next appointment.

How to take care of yourself at 9 weeks pregnant

It’s likely that your baby bump is barely visible, and yet all these highly-complex changes are going on through your body. At this stage of pregnancy, most women have symptoms of tiredness and morning sickness. Pregnancy hormones are kicking in, sometimes leading to headaches, backaches, mood swings and other symptoms.  It’s important to take really good care of yourself to diminish the negative symptoms and to make sure your body has enough activity and nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy and growing.

Set your appetite on fruits and vegetables. All day. Every day. There are no healthier and safer sources of vitamins and minerals than the natural ones – fruits and vegetables. If you are having morning sickness, your appetite could be decreased, so try to set up a meal schedule with small and regular snacks. Make it easier to adjust to your new lifestyle by seeking advice from a nutritionist or by informing yourself from the web. There are now quite a few useful apps that can help you follow a nutrition plan for the pregnancy months ahead of you.

Further preparations

Schedule an antenatal appointment with your doctor or midwife if you haven’t done so yet. This is mainly for taking routine tests, but you can also get more informed on your progress and get recommendations on eating, rest and exercise based on your medical history and condition. If you have not had a confirmation of pregnancy from your OB yet, do so by taking the first ultrasound scan, called the Early Pregnancy scan or Viability scan. Based on the early pregnancy scan, the sonographer will calculate your estimated due date and check whether you have a single pregnancy or a twin pregnancy.

After you have had confirmation of pregnancy from your doctor, you now have the certainty needed to make the official announcement to your friends, relatives, co-workers and your boss. You can show the first baby scan photos to your close ones and enjoy the wonderful experience ahead.

The 7th Week of Pregnancy

You’ve reached the halfway mark of your first trimester. Congrats! This is an important mark for most women, as it’s the first time when they can actually see their baby on a scan. It’s also an extremely busy week for your body. Your baby develops extremely fast at this time, with an astonishing rate of 100 brain cells per minute and the heart evolving into a complex organ with dedicated functions. Each baby develops differently, but usually around this week tooth buds and tongue begin to form and arm buds sprout, along with further development of ears, nostrils and eyes. Your baby’s blood type also develops around this time.

For most women, breasts grow at a peak rate and pregnancy aches become overwhelming during the 7th week of pregnancy. This can partly be caused by pregnancy hormones, but discomfort and loss of energy are also due to the fast paced developmental changes in your body. Your taste in food has probably changed. If you’ve already developed aversions towards certain foods, replace them with healthy alternatives to replenish the necessary vitamins and minerals. Due to hormones, urination is much more frequent in the 7th week. Despite that, you and you baby need more fluids intake than ever. Avoid caffeine, it’s associated with some pregnancy risks and it’s a diuretic, which means you’ll pee more. If you’re feeling tired, that’s normal, too. Your system is working swiftly on producing the placenta and developing your baby. Eat as many as 7 small meals a day and exercise lightly to keep your energy levels up.

The good news is that, starting with the 7th week, you’re becoming more aware of your baby and you can already see what’s going on in your tummy with an early pregnancy scan. Seeing their baby for the first time is a wonderful experience for both parents. Your sonographer can check if everything is developing as planned and even calculate your EED (estimated due date). It is usually also possible to detect twin pregnancy during the 7th week.

This is a time of awakening for many women, preparing them psychologically for the journey. Seeing your baby for the first time on the screen and feeling your body change drastically makes you feel closer to your baby and motivates you to eat healthier and get the proper care. You are now much, much closer to becoming a mom.

The sixth week of pregnancy

By the sixth week of pregnancy, the changes that occurred in both the mother and the unborn child are now visible. The mother is now fully aware that a new human being is growing fast inside her. The future mum’s lifestyle is highly important at this point since the following weeks are a very critical point in fetal development. Therefore, it is more important than ever to stay healthy and avoid smoking, alcohol, medication as well as any other toxic habits that can interfere with your baby’s early development.

Your baby is growing fast, reaching now the size of a small bean. Since its head is oversized and appears bigger than the rest of its body, the basic elements of its face can be distinguished. Your baby’ has now little limb buds that are starting to lengthen into shoulders, arms, hands, and even the beginnings of fingers, which are linked by a tiny membrane. The same happens with the little leg buds which are lengthening into thigh, leg, and foot parts.

Your baby’s heart beats at about 100 to 130 beats per minute, almost twice as fast as an adult’s heart. This means that blood has already begun to move through the main vessels. At this point, intestines as well as rudimentary bronchial buds start developing. The neural tube along the baby’s back is now closed and the cerebral development of the baby is in progress.

Due to the development of joints and first muscle tissues, your baby may experience its first movements by the end of this week. It is however too early to feel these movements, but if you are willing to see your baby’s “aware activity” inside your womb, we advise you to have a baby scan done, perhaps a 4D ultrasound to have a clearer image of your child-to-be, at our London clinic where our highly qualified personnel is more than pleased to assist you.

The digestive and respiratory systems are also developing. Therefore, this period is crucial for the baby’s future evolution. But how do these changes affect you? Definitely, your body undergoes more than just physical changes, so it’s better to know what to expect next.

First of all, you will gradually gain weight but this should not be a reason to worry about because the extra weight you gain during pregnancy provides nourishment to your developing baby, being also stored for breastfeeding your baby after delivery. You may also experience morning sickness, muscle cramps, fatigue, abdominal and pelvic discomfort. These symptoms are frequently similar to the premenstrual syndrome. However, keep in mind that women are different and so are the symptoms!

Mood swings are very common during the sixth week of pregnancy. You may experience extreme mood swings and can feel sad one day and joyful on the other. These fluctuations are normal because the levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone in your body change dramatically, and these changes have a significant effect on your brain’s chemistry.

This is the time to schedule your first prenatal checkup to see if everything is all right. Be optimistic and avoid stress as much as possible, because this period is one of the happiest moments in a woman’s life!

The 5th Week of Pregnancy

Until now, we have talked about the importance of the first trimester of pregnancy and particularly, about the need of your unborn baby to stay in a warm, healthy and serene place, considering the fact that the baby’s vital organs are developing now. Therefore you, as a mum-to-be, have to make sure that your unborn child has everything it needs for a proper development. Technically, you have to follow now several basic rules: start eating a healthy well-balanced diet, live a healthier life, be more responsible and avoid stress. The risk of genetic abnormalities is increased during the first trimester of pregnancy, so pay attention to your lifestyle!

Your baby undergoes a rapid development during the 4th and 5th week of pregnancy: if, at the beginning of the 4th week of pregnancy, it was no bigger than a poppy seed, by the end of the 5th week, it easily reached the size of an orange seed (5 or 6mm). After conveniently settling in its new home, the embryo starts developing a rudimentary placenta while the yolk sac is being gradually replaced by the umbilical cord; both the placenta and the umbilical cord are in charge of delivering nourishment and oxygen to the baby.

Your tiny baby has already formed its head and small buds are signalling the “location” of the future limbs. The heart starts beating for the first time and the neural tube, which forms into the brain and spinal cord eventually, begins to form. This is also the time when the baby’s gender starts developing. However, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of your unborn baby’s gender by the end of the 16th week of pregnancy. Nevertheless, some ultrasounds will be able to pick out the baby’s major developments, such as the ears, mouth and nose. Therefore, you are more than welcome to make an appointment to our London clinic to actually see these changes and to have your pregnancy properly and constantly monitored by our highly qualified physicians.

Except for the early pregnancy signs you’ve experienced by now, your body is not showing yet any major changes so most people won’t be able to tell, by looking at you, that you’re 5 weeks pregnant. However, you should consider starting an exercise routine now. Exercises will help you develop good muscle tone, strength and endurance and why not, manage the extra weight you’ll put on. Choose a safe, moderately vigorous activity you like: yoga, walking and swimming are fine when you’re pregnant.

Also, if this is your first pregnancy, you should pay attention to the hormonal changes you’re undergoing, since they may lead to depression. Do not panic! This may not necessarily happen to you but it’s good to know and the sooner you’ll determine the root cause of depression, the better you’ll fight against it!

You may also notice significant changes in your breasts: they may be tender to touch, sore and even swollen. Spotting, especially at night, is also a sign of pregnancy, indicating that the embryo has successfully reached and implanted into the uterus. However, all mums talk about this period as the most beautiful period of pregnancy because now you’re actually feeling that you’re expecting.

Most parents-to-be chose to withhold this wonderful news until after the third month because the risk of miscarriage is pretty high during this period. Remember: this is your private news for as long as you choose! However, if you’ve decided to share this great news with your friends and family, choose an original manner to do so! We’ll come back later on with several ingenious ways to let the world know that a tiny you it’s on its way!!

 

What to expect when you’re expecting twins

At a global level, statistics say that twin or multiple pregnancies currently account for 3% of live births. So, if you’re wondering about your chances of having more than one baby at a time, the answer is simple: basically, your chance is about 3% or 1 in 33. Going further, the chance of having ‘natural’ fraternal twins is only about 1.7% or 1 in 60. The chance of having identical twins has remained steady, and is about 0.4% or 1 in 250. The chances of having twins with the use of fertility treatments can be as high as 20 to 25%.

As you’ve probably know, when we’re talking about a twin pregnancy, we may be talking about fraternal twins (also known as dizygotic or non-identical twins) and which are more common, accounting for two-thirds of all twins, and identical twins (monozygotic twins), which occur randomly and account for only one-third of all twins.

Fraternal (dizygotic or non-identical) twins usually occur when two separate eggs are fertilised by two separate sperms, resulting thus two separate embryos, each having its own individual characteristics as well as its own placenta and sac. This means that the non-identical twins are no more alike than any other two siblings, with different genetic heritage. The babies may be of the same sex or different sexes; half of all fraternal twins are boy-girl pair and the other half are same sex pair. Fraternal twins are more common for older mothers, with rates doubling over the age of 35. Fraternal twins occur in about 1 in 50 pregnancies.

Identical twins are sharing everything. They are the result of a single fertilized egg splitting into two separate embryos. The two embryos can share a single placenta and can be in the same or different sac. Since identical twins come from the same fertilized egg, they have the exact same DNA and consequently, the same sex, eye colour, hair colour and blood type. Furthermore, even if at birth, the babies have different heights and weights, as time passes by, their constitution will somehow become as similar as possible. Nevertheless, the environment that the twins are exposed to (in or out of the womb) determines fine physical characteristics. Therefore, identical twins usually have different fingerprints and as they get older, more differences generally develop.

However, statistics say that identical twins occur in about 1 in 250 pregnancies and this appears to be a random event rather than a hereditary trait, and is uniformly distributed in all populations around the world.

30 years ago, the mums-to-be usually found out that that they had been carrying more than one baby when they were ready to deliver. Now, things have changed: the first baby scan can tell you whether you’re expecting more than one baby. Therefore, if you haven’t had your first baby scan done, you are welcome to come to our London clinic where our highly qualified sonographer can confirm or infirm a single or multiple pregnancy.

There are also certain “signs” that may indicate a multiple pregnancy. So, you are more likely to become pregnant with twins naturally, when you are in your 30s and 40s since the chances of having twins increase with age. Also the likelihood of twins increases if: you took fertility medication or underwent other fertility treatments, or if you had a multiple pregnancy in the past because studies say that for the mothers who have already had one set of fraternal twins, their chances of conceiving another set are five times greater than the average woman, or if there is a family history of twins, or if you’re African-American woman because studies have shown that African-American women are more likely to have twins than any other race.

Women with twins may notice their pregnancy signs sooner or these signs may be more intense. This is because they have higher levels of both the human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) and the alpha-fetoprotein (protein released by the fetal liver and found in the mother’s blood) in their system. Other hormones increase during pregnancy as well, mainly progesterone and some oestrogen, which contribute to many of the early physical signs of pregnancy. The discovery you are expecting twins is often made quite early in pregnancy after you have a routine ultrasound scan. Two gestational sacs or foetuses are seen rather than one.
A twin pregnancy is sometimes suspected if the womb feels larger than expected to the doctor or midwife who examines you. Later in pregnancy, the two separate babies may be felt abdominally during an examination, and again this will be confirmed by ultrasound scan.

However, the safest confirmation occurs when your GP tells you that he/she’s hearing two heartbeats and, around the sixth week of pregnancy, the sonographer may see two little gestational sacs. Therefore, you are more than welcome to come to our clinic in the heart of London to find out together whether you’re expecting more than one baby and to prepare for and enjoy this wonderful journey.

The first medical examination and the first baby scan

Medical exams, prenatal care as well as the office visits to the healthcare provider are very important because they help to permanently monitor your pregnancy, they are designed to keep you posted on the development phases of your baby and help you, as a mother, to make sure that everything is alright. Contact or visit us anytime at our clinic inLondonto schedule your prenatal appointment.

The prenatal check-up is usually scheduled after finding out that you’re pregnant and, considering its multiple benefits, it’s better to schedule your prenatal check-up as soon as possible.

During your first prenatal check-up, your GP may tell you the estimated due date, may exclude the probability of an ectopic pregnancy, can verify whether you’re carrying more than one baby and can accurately determine the embryo’s gestational age.

Before heading to the medical office, make sure you bring your complete medical history information. This may be records from your previous pregnancies, surgeries or anything you think your doctor or midwife might want. If this is not your first prenatal visit then be sure to let your practitioner know if anything has changed in your medical history since your last appointment. It is essential to present all medical records as well as any other medical-related information (such as medications or vitamins you’re currently taking or you have recently taken) to exclude any possibilities that might affect your pregnancy.

The baby scan is a very important non-invasive procedure (as we highlighted in our previous articles) that allows you to first meet your baby – you may see how it looks like and how it moves, stretches and even smiles at you. This is a unique, bonding experience you will forever cherish in your heart. Therefore, you’re always welcome to come to our baby scan clinic to enjoy these magic moments in a professional, friendly environment.