Pregnancy Scans 101 – Why You Should Attend


No, this doesn’t refer to scanning for viruses on your computer or scanning the lay of the land on your hiking holiday. This is going to the hospital for scans of your baby.

Being male, I like to think we’ve dodged a bullet by being born with the old meat and two veg.

Other compromises need to be made, though, on your pregnancy journey to support your amazing partner carrying your offspring.

It’s super important, as a dad-to-be, that you attend every pregnancy scan booked in the diary.

This not only helps your partner, but it also keeps you up to date on fetal growth, gives you an emotional connection with your unborn child, gets you off your ass and out of the house, and is genuinely a lovely thing to be a part of.

So, let me give you the rundown on how the scans pan out and why it is so crucial that you’re there squeezing your partner’s clammy hand every step of the way.

What’s an ultrasound scan like?

Most pregnancy scans are carried out using ultrasound. Your partner will sit in a chair with her bulging midriff exposed, and a sticky lube will be applied to a small device, which then slides effortlessly across her bump.

This sends an image to the screen of your little one. Usually, your partner will be asked to have a full bladder for some of her scans. This is to help make the picture clearer.

As you probably know, being poked and prodded with a full bladder isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, so do remind your partner not to wet herself and embarrass you in the scanning room.

How long does a scan take?

Depending on what type of scan you’re having, the time limit shouldn’t vary too much, and you’ll be in and out within 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to be back home for the game.

So, what are the typical types of scans?

The NHS provides several scans once you’ve started your journey.

Early pregnancy scans

If your partner is experiencing discomfort or bleeding, or if she has had a previous miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, you may get a scan arranged between 6 and 10 weeks. This may be an internal scan to ensure everything is progressing as normal.

The scan will check the heartbeat as well as your baby’s exact age and size.

This will be an anxious scan for you and your partner to attend. Try and stay positive and if you have any concerns, make sure to raise them with your doctor or midwife.

Scan at 12 weeks

This is usually your first scan and is offered around 8–14 weeks of pregnancy. This will give you that highly anticipated due date, although it is only an estimate.

When we had our 12-week scan, the initial due date was Halloween. We decided the name Dameon would be sufficient if that were to be the case. Luckily, it wasn’t.

The 12-week scan also assesses age, heartbeat, and how many babies are actually in there!

The heartbeat is checked to ensure there are no obvious abnormalities. Lastly, this scan also checks your partner’s ovaries to make sure they are in healthy condition.

How does the 12-week scan pan out?

The 12-week scan will last 10 minutes or so, during which several images of your baby will be taken. The person who performs the scan is called a sonographer, and they will start by applying the gel generously to your partner’s stomach, like suncream on a hot day at the beach.

The gel is there to make sure there is good contact between your partner’s skin and the scanning device the sonographer uses.

Once the scan begins, a black-and-white image will appear on the screen in front of you. As the sonographer positions the device, you will both get a good view of your baby.

Being a man, you’ll have no idea what you’re looking at and it will look all the same to you. This is where you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.

If all is well with your little one, this can be a special time for expectant parents because you’ll be able to see your baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound.

After this, you’re usually offered an NT scan.

What is an NT Scan and what does it stand for?

An NT scan stands for nuchal translucency and reveals the likelihood of your baby having Down’s syndrome or potential other abnormalities.

An assessment is made based on things such as your partner’s age, the thickness of the fold at the back of your baby’s neck, and a blood test.

You and your partner will be able to discuss this fully with your midwife or doctor.

What if it’s twins?

Then good luck, because you’re going to need it!

Just kidding, it’s usually possible to find out if you’re having twins during your 12-week scan and the scan is the same.

The sonographer will try to determine whether or not your babies share a placenta or have one each. If they share a placenta, it means they’re identical twins.

If they have two separate placentas, it means they could be either identical or non-identical twins.

A proper flip of the coin, though you probably won’t see the outcome of it until after the scan, as you will no doubt faint due to the utter shock of finding out you’re having twins.

So, when is the next scan after that?

The next scan on the list is the 20-week pregnancy scan. This is usually your main second scan and is the one to get the most excited about.

You will find out if you’re having a boy or a girl, though this is optional if you prefer surprises.

When I found out the sex of my baby, it was one of the best feelings I experienced.

I was having a boy, and I punched the air in delight, stopping the scan in its tracks by jumping around and celebrating. This is something I’d advise you not to miss.

The scan is usually offered between 18 and 21 weeks and is known as the anomaly scan. It includes the following checks:

  • Any obvious brain problems
  • The spine and abdomen, to see that everything is properly developed.
  • The size and shape of your baby’s heart
  • The stomach, which you should be able to see below the heart
  • Kidneys and the bladder
  • Hands and feet.
  • The placenta, amniotic fluid, and umbilical cord
  • Baby’s size.

Are all these checks normal?

Just remember this if you’re feeling anxious about your 20-week scan.

  • The scan is completely routine; everyone has one, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate the fact that you’re halfway through your pregnancy.
  • Measurements will be taken so you can see just how much your baby has already grown.
  • You’ll be able to spot some exciting changes, like seeing if they have your amazing eye shape or your sexy webbed feet.
  • You can keep the sex of the baby secret and find out during birth like every other psychopath.

Are there any other scans after this?

Growth scans

These scans are only offered if your midwife wants to keep an eye on your baby’s growth.

If your partner has any pre-existing or pregnancy-related medical conditions that can affect growth, you may have a growth scan.

Are all these scans safe?

Ultrasound scans have been used for years, but some expectant parents still worry about whether or not they are safe and how many ultrasounds scans they should have during pregnancy.

When done by your healthcare professional, there are no known risks or evidence to show that ultrasound scans are harmful to your baby.

If it’s being done down the pub, then I’d suggest getting a second opinion.

Private pregnancy scans: are they worth it?

We had some private scans during our first pregnancy, and we thought it was a great idea, as it relaxed some initial anxiety. These can be expensive when you start having more than one, though.

Please check out our blog for more direct, light-hearted advice on fatherhood and subscribe to our newsletter here.

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About Us

Real-life advice, sense, and nonsense from someone who is currently there, doing it, and wearing the slightly tight, chundered on t-shirt.