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An 18–20 week pregnancy screening ultrasound is part of the routine care during pregnancy.
Your doctor would refer you for ultrasound screening as part of a routine check-up at this stage in your pregnancy. It is a good idea to wear comfortable clothing that gives easy access to your entire abdominal area.
Some research has found that when young children are present during screening in the ultrasound room they can become restless, which can distract the person carrying out the examination and some important information might be missed. It is strongly recommended that if you have young children, you arrange for child care beforehand and do not bring children to your scan appointment if there is no one to care for them in the waiting room. A transducer (a smooth handheld device) is moved gently across the abdomen with a sliding and rotating action (see Ultrasound).
The experience of seeing your unborn baby is exciting and positive, and the sonographer carrying out the examination will generally point out easily recognised parts of the body. The ultrasound is carried out for medical reasons to fully check and assess the development of the foetus from head to toe. A number of measurements of the foetus will be taken (head size, abdomen and bones) to assess the exact size and age of the baby.
Sometimes the foetus might not be in an ideal position to see a particular structure or part of the body, and the sonographer might ask you to move slightly by rolling from one side to the other. If you are asked to return and parts of the foetus still cannot be seen, or it is necessary to check the position of the placenta more clearly, then a transvaginal ultrasound might need to be carried out (see Transvaginal Ultrasound). The person carrying out the screening ultrasound will be concentrating very closely on the images as they come onto the screen and might be quiet or not talking. Pregnancy ultrasound is complex, because there are many structures in the developing foetus that need to be checked and measured. A normal foetus will be moving quite a bit during the scan, and it might take a few minutes to get exactly the right image of a hand, foot, the brain, or various parts of the chest or abdomen. The 18-20 week screening pregnancy ultrasound is a screening test to examine the development of the foetus.
The significance of any abnormality will be explained to you by a doctor and it may be necessary to have further ultrasounds at specialist centres dedicated to scanning foetuses and abnormalities.
If abnormalities are detected, it is the role of the radiologist or obstetrician sonologist to talk with your doctor about the possible causes for the abnormalities seen on the ultrasound scan. A normal ultrasound result for a baby does not necessarily mean normal development will continue throughout infancy.
The significance of any abnormality will be explained to you by a doctor, and it might be necessary to have further tests to confirm the screening results. Amniocentesisor chorionic villus samplingmight be necessary to check the chromosomes of the foetus if Down syndrome or other congenital conditions are suspected. If abnormalities are detected, the radiologist or obstetrician sonologist (specialist doctors) will talk with your doctor about the possible reasons for the abnormalities. The examination is carried out by sonographers who are specially trained and accredited to carry out the scan. The sonographer might leave the room to show the images to the radiologist (specialist doctor) who provides a report to your GP or obstetrician. The examination is carried out in a radiology department of a hospital, private radiology practice or at a specialist clinic for obstetric and gynaecological ultrasound. Please feel free to ask theprivate practice, clinic or hospital where you are having your test or procedure when your doctor is likely to have the written report.
It is important that you discuss the results with the doctor who referred you, either in person or on the telephone, so that they can explain what the results mean for you. What are the generally accepted indications for 18a€“20 week screening pregnancy ultrasound?
What happens if something abnormal is found on the 18a€“20A week screening pregnancy ultrasound? This is used to see that the foetus is growing normally, including limbs, heart, brain and internal organs. This means the images you see on the screen show what is happening inside your uterus at that moment, like watching a movie. You might not recognise or understand some of the images you see on the ultrasound screen, but it is all part of this important and thorough screening. The screening ultrasound will look at the position of the placenta and whether it is away from the cervix so that is does not block the birth canal during labour. Occasionally, the foetus is in such a position that an area cannot be seen, and you might be asked to return on another day to complete the screening. In a transvaginal ultrasound, a small specially shaped transducer is used, which is slightly larger than a tampon and shaped to fit comfortably into the vagina. They will have a well established routine for doing this and a checklist so that nothing is overlooked. Ultrasound uses high-frequency soundwaves to obtain images and there is no radiation involved.
Image quality is often not as clear because the foetus is further away from the ultrasound transducer, which can make assessment of the images more difficult.
This will help to guide the discussion between you and your doctor about any further investigation or treatment that may be needed. This will help to guide the discussion between you and your doctor about any further investigation or treatment that might be needed. The ultrasound room is usually dimly lit to allow the images on the ultrasound screen to be clearly seen. It can also help doctors detect some abnormalities earlier than would be otherwise possible. This is to ensure that the inside of the abdominal area is seen clearly on the ultrasound images.
Occasionally, the sonographer will not be able to tell, usually because of the position of the foetus. Measurements and pictures of the cervix are also taken to see if there is a risk of premature labour. It might not be possible to see all the foetal structures in multiple pregnancies, and you might be asked to return on another day to complete the examination. A small number of 18-20 week screening pregnancy ultrasound scans (1-2%) will identify a major structural abnormality. Approximately 50% of Down syndrome (one of the most common chromosomal conditions) cases are detected by ultrasound. If you are not comfortable with a male, you should let the reception staff know this before having the test.
The radiology facility where you are having the ultrasound will provide you with information about this. If it is not possible to tell the sex, you will not receive another screening ultrasound for that purpose. If a transvaginal ultrasound is needed, the procedure will be fully explained and your permission requested. In these cases where the patient is young or has religious or ethnic concerns, a female chaperone can be requested (usually a nurse at the radiology facility where you are having the scan, or a female family member).
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