So, you’ve found out you are expecting a baby, congratulations! When you have finished celebrating and telling your nearest and dearest, the next thing to do is to book an appointment to see a midwife through your local doctors’ surgery.
You will normally meet your midwife for the first time at around 8-10 weeks in to your pregnancy for a ‘booking in’ session where your midwife will ask you some questions about your pregnancy and ask you to fill in some paperwork to get your pregnancy registered in the NHS system.
It will be helpful to have information to hand on any relevant medical history for you or your partner as well as information on the dates you had your last period or when you think you may have fallen pregnant. This will help your midwife to estimate your birth date but don’t worry if you don’t know these dates, you will find out your predicted birth date when you have your first scan.
You will be given a folder with your notes in to take away with you, it is usually a yellow folder and you will need to bring this to every appointment you have from now until after your baby is born.
After your appointment your midwife will book you in for your 12 week scan at your nearest hospital and you will receive a letter in the post or a phone call to let you know where and when you need to attend your scan.
You might like to take your partner, a family member or a friend with you when you go for your 12 week scan but bear in mind that you are unlikely to be allowed to take children with you to this appointment and are usually limited to just one guest as the scanning rooms are often quite small. Your appointment letter will confirm how many people are able to accompany you and the hospitals policy on children attending so make sure you read it carefully before your appointment.
Wear something comfortable and preferably a top over leggings or trousers because the sonographer will need to see your tummy when they scan you and this will allow you to keep your bottom half covered and simply lift your top. Also take your yellow folder with you so your notes are all kept in one place.
What happens at a 12 week scan?
When you arrive at the hospital you will need to check in at the antenatal ward (or wherever your letter tells you to go) and the receptionist will ask you to confirm the details they have been given by your midwife. Then you will be shown to a waiting area with your partner.
It is a good idea to take some magazines or something to do as there can be a long wait for your appointment. Sometimes the sonographer must do emergency scans that can delay the standard appointments so be prepared to wait and then you will be pleasantly surprised if things are running on time!
The sonographer will call you through to the scan room and ask you to lay down on the bed and lift your shirt or dress so that your tummy is exposed. They will check they have the right details on your paperwork and then they will apply a special jelly like cream to your tummy which will help them get a clear ultrasound scan of the baby.
They will move a probe over the jelly on your skin that sends out ultrasound waves and collects them when they bounce back, this sends the information to the ultrasound screen to show a black and white image of your baby. It doesn’t hurt you or your baby but they might need to apply more pressure in certain areas to ensure they can get a complete and clear image of your babies body.
Don’t be worried if your sonographer is quiet and takes a while to get a clear picture, at this stage your baby is still tiny, and it can be positioned awkwardly so it can be a difficult process which the sonographer will need to concentrate on. Once they have a clear image on the screen, the sonographer will be able to talk you through what they can see.
What does the 12 week scan show?
You might be able to see the baby’s heart beating and if all is well you will be able to hear it beating too when the sonographer turns on the sound. This is a magical moment for any parent, the first time you hear your little ones beating heart it can suddenly hit you that you have a tiny human growing inside you, so don’t be embarrassed if you find this quite emotional.
The 12-week scan is often referred to as the ‘Dating Scan’ because the sonographer will check the baby’s size and will be able to tell you an expected birth date based on your baby’s measurements, this is referred to as the ‘estimated date of delivery’ and will be used to schedule your 20 week scan.
If you have opted to be tested for downs syndrome then the sonographer will also carry out a nuchal translucency scan to measure the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck.
At the end of the scan the sonographer will print out some scan photos for you to take home and show your friends and family. They will also put a copy of their notes in your yellow folder so that your midwife can review the results at your next routine appointment.
Do you have any questions about the 12 week scan?
Our resident expert midwife Katie Hilton is hosting an Instagram Live session on Friday 29th March, for more information head over to our Instagram page. You can ask her anything about early pregnancy and the 12 week scan and she will do her best to answer, so don’t hold back. Join us via this link to find out all you need to know about the 12 week scan.
If you have a specific question in mind then you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put your question to Katie so she can answer it during the Instagram live session.