After your first ultrasound you will be given the option to make an appointment for your second and final ultrasound commonly referred to as the ’20 week scan’ or ‘anomaly scan’. They are usually done around 20 week’s gestation and are performed to check that the baby is forming well and all growth is as recommended for that stage of pregnancy. The 20 week ultrasound is also the time to find out whether you are having a boy or girl.
Some couples choose to not know the gender of their unborn baby, if you are one of them then let the sonographer know so that they don’t go looking for girl / boy parts. Depending on the position of the baby you may be able to tell when you are having the scan if the baby is positioned incorrectly for gender analysis then you may be asked to come back after a short walk or another appointment will be made for you to come in and have another scan. Some hospitals will ask you to drink plenty of water so that the uterus is pushed up and a clearer view of the baby can be seen, you will be able to go toilet straight after so don’t worry. I have found that once you are on the couch looking at the growing baby you forget how much you need to go toilet until you need to get up and walk around, so relax and don’t think about it too much.
The anomaly scan or anatomy scan as it is also referred to will check that the baby’s brain, heart, kidneys and lungs are all developing well. The spine is also checked and abnormalities in the arms and legs are also checked. Anomaly scans can tell you if there are any growth problems but if a baby was to be born with growth issues such as dwarfism the scan may not necessarily indicate this unless it runs in the family. An old wives tale about the second ultrasound is still circulating today, many women used to believe that depending on the heartbeat you could tell the gender of the baby. This is not true you could ask and then make a note of it but in general they beat faster than ours anyway and the beats per minute have nothing to do with if it’s a boy or girl.
Sometimes there are abnormalities found so a further ultrasound with a senior technician or obstetrician may be needed. Otherwise an amniocentesis may be required for a more in depth analysis. An amniocentesis is performed using a needle to draw out amniotic fluid that is then checked for abnormalities in the chromosomes and foetal development. If a problem was to be found at the ultrasound you would be given a choice on how to proceed so you don’t be afraid you will not be forced to do anything that you are not comfortable with.
The anomaly scan is always anxiously anticipated as it is usually the last one that is performed on the NHS; it gives you a chance to further bond with the baby and also reassure you that all is well before baby is born. Unfortunately you will then have a further 20 weeks to wait until the birth of the baby but ultrasounds are very accurate nowadays in detecting abnormalities and confirming gender. You will also get the last picture of your growing baby before he/she is born.