I’m pregnant! Please scan my baby.

Congratulations if you or your partner are expecting! Even if you are not, I am guessing you are reading this because you are trying to conceive. Or maybe you are just curious.

If you are pregnant, the only way you and your partner can see the baby is through ultrasound. Therefore, ultrasound scan is the most common and highly demanded form of investigation in pregnancy.

Basic ultrasound only? I want premium one

Well, let me first explain the differences between types of ultrasound. I am sure you have heard of 3D and 4D ultrasound. The latest ones to emerge are 5D and 6D. So many dimensions! Do you know what they all mean?

In the lingo of doctors and sonographers (trained personnel to perform ultrasound), the different types of ultrasound procedures in pregnancy are:

  1. Basic / Standard Ultrasound: A device called probe transducer is placed on your abdomen to generate 2D images of the developing baby
  2. Transvaginal Scans: A specially designed probe transducer is placed inside your vagina to generate 2D images. This is most useful in early stages of your pregnancy when the uterus and baby might be too small to be seen through abdomen.
  3. Detailed anomaly scan: Done by specially trained doctors and sonographers. This scan is indicated if you have high risks of carrying a baby with structural abnormalities
  4. Doppler Ultrasound: This procedure is indicated in instances such as hypertension in pregnancy or suspected retardation in baby’s growth.
  5. 3D Ultrasound: A specially designed probe and software generate 3D images of your developing baby.
  6. 4D Ultrasound: A specially designed scanners allow you to look at the face and movements of your baby.
  7. 5D Ultrasound: This high definition technology allow you to see your baby clearer and similar to its skin tone. Therefore, the images seen more real.
  8. 6D Ultrasound: It is just like 5D ultrasound, but you will be wearing a VR (virtual reality) goggle which allows you to watch your baby through the screen.

As you can see, the extra dimensions provided through 3D,4D,5D and 6D scans actually just gives you better pictures of your baby. You will not get more information about your baby’s health through the scans.

Ultrasound scan machine

How often should I do scan when I am pregnant?

Ultrasound scan does not harm you or your baby.  Hence, it is not wrong if you want to do scan more often. In Malaysia, many doctors and sonographers recommend timing of scan as below:

  1. Before 12 weeks of pregnancy: The first scan is done as early as possible after your urine pregnancy test is positive. The main aim of this scan is to determine your expected date of delivery. If the scan is done at less than 6 weeks of pregnancy, transvaginal ultrasound is indicated. This is to determine that pregnancy is in your uterus, not elsewhere. Early scan is also best to determine if you are carrying more than one baby.
  2. 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy: This period is the golden time to perform a nuchal translucency scan. Nuchal translucency (NT) is the ultrasound appearance of a collection of fluid under the skin behind your baby’s neck. NT is a screening scan to detect babies with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome or babies with heart problems.
  3. 18 to 28 weeks of pregnancy: This is the best time to detect any obvious physical abnormalities in your baby. If there is suspicion, detailed scan will be indicated. By this time, you can already ask the sonographer the gender of your baby.
  4. 28 weeks of pregnancy and above: The first aim of this scan is to determine the position of your placenta. The second aim is to check on your baby’s growth pattern. The third aim is to check adequacy of the fluid in your uterus or known as amniotic fluid. If there is any abnormalities detected in your baby’s growth or inadequacy of amniotic fluid, Doppler ultrasound is indicated. Lastly this scan is to check the position of your baby. This helps in discussing your delivery plans.

Doctor, can you summarize again on basic ultrasound scan in pregnancy?

In summary, the main aim of ultrasound scan in pregnancy is to monitor you baby’s growth. Further detailed anomaly scan or Doppler ultrasound is indicated if there is abnormality detected in its organs structure, growth, position of  placenta or amniotic fluid. It will be great if you can have the ultrasound scans done according to the timing I have described above. For the more premium experience, you can enjoy it if it is within your means. However, I do feel less is more when it comes to ultrasound scan in pregnancy.