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Ultrasound Scans

What is an ultrasound scan?
Ultrasound pictures are formed using sound waves. A machine sends sound waves through the body, which are then reflected back and converted into an image that is visible on a screen. Ultrasound has revolutionised the care of women during pregnancy.
In the UK an ultrasound scan is a routine examination, usually performed when a woman first attends the antenatal clinic and often again at 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
How is ultrasound scanning carried out?
In the first 10 weeks of pregnancy the best way to scan is by inserting a small probe into the vagina. The examination is similar to a pelvic examination. Even embryos that are only a few millimetres long will be visible on the TV monitor.
In later stages of the pregnancy, the scanning will be done via the surface of the abdomen. Ultrasound gel will be spread on the skin, then the scanner is passed over the uterus until the foetus and the placenta are found. Usually, the pregnant woman and her partner can watch the scan on the monitor.
What is ultrasound scanning used for?
Ultrasound is used for different reasons at different stages in pregnancy. In the first stage of the pregnancy, usually before 14 weeks, ultrasound scanning is used to check whether the foetus is alive and whether it is alone or one of twins or triplets.
By measuring the length of the foetus it is also possible to accurately determine when the baby will be due.
Some major abnormalities can also be detected at this stage. At 11 to 14 weeks, measurement of the thickness of the skin at the back of the neck (known as nuchal translucency measurement) can be used to calculate the risk of the foetus having a chromosome abnormality.
From 18 weeks onwards, it is possible to examine the foetus in more detail. Most organ systems can be examined to ensure that the foetus appears to be developing normally. The spine, skull, brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, arms and legs can all be seen. If the mother is overweight, then the quality of the examination may be poor.
From 30 weeks onwards, ultrasound is often used to estimate how well the baby appears to be growing. It is difficult to be precise about this but it is often useful if the woman has had a small baby in the past or has a condition that may affect the baby's growth, such as pre-eclampsia.
The bloodstream in the umbilical cord is also examined to see if it is functioning well enough to transport sufficient oxygen and nutrition to the foetus.
It is also possible to check the position of the placenta to see whether it is lying normally or if the placenta is lying abnormally close to the inside of the cervix (a condition known as placenta praevia).
Will an ultrasound scan guarantee a healthy child?
An ultrasound scan can provide a good overall impression of the foetus, but even the finest examination cannot detect all possible problems.
Can ultrasound scans harm the unborn child?
There is no scientific evidence to support this concern.
Routine ultrasound scans can be done at most obstetric clinics. Specialised scans are offered as follows:

Nuchal Translucency Scan
An NT scan is a method of assessing whether your baby is likely to have Down's syndrome
St James Hospital
Misrah San Gakbu
Tel: 21692055
4D Ultrasound Scan
A 4D fetal ultrasound scan adds the dimension of time to these images so that you get live images of the movement of the child in the womb.
St James Hospital
Misrah San Gakbu
Tel: 21692055
Fetal 4D scans

Veduta Clinic also offers the Nuchal Translucency Scan, and the Anomaly Scan at around 20 weeks (a scan at the ideal time of the pregnancy to try and detect fetal structural abnormalities. This can allow planning of delivery to improve baby's outcome) and Growth Scans between 32 and 38 weeks to assess for fetal growth.
Veduta Clinic
37, Reggie Miller Street,
Tel: 27556655

73 Bir-Bal Street, Balzan BZN9015, Malta
Email: info@kidsmalta.com
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