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Early Pregnancy Scans: What Can You Expect?

February 15, 2023, 16:02 Pregnancy, Ultrasound

Congratulations on your pregnancy. The journey ahead could not be more exciting for you and your family.

As you progress and your baby grows, you’ll likely attend many healthcare appointments. In the early stages, these appointments assess your overall health and ensure your pregnancy progresses as expected.

Your 8-week pregnancy scan is a significant milestone, giving you a first look at your little bundle of joy. So, what can you expect from your early pregnancy scan? Does everyone need one? Let’s explore these questions and more.

What is an early pregnancy scan?

An early pregnancy scan is an ultrasound performed shortly after you find out you’re pregnant – typically six to 10 weeks after conception.

Depending on the circumstances, your ultrasound might be abdominal, where a technician passes a wand over your stomach. Or, it might be transvaginal, where a small wand is inserted into your vagina. Transvaginal ultrasounds allow the technician to examine the foetus more closely.

The purpose of an early pregnancy ultrasound is to assess the pregnancy’s viability and deduce an accurate date of the pregnancy. That’s why early scans are often called a viability or dating scans.

What can you expect from an 8-week pregnancy scan?

Your 8-week pregnancy ultrasound gives you your first glimpse of your growing baby. It’s an exciting and heart-warming moment, but you should not expect to see much detail at this stage. Instead, you will see a small bean-shaped figure.

If you are pregnant with twins, you might see two figures. Early on, the head is about the same size as the rest of the body.

In addition, expect to see the gestational sac and, within it, the yolk sac. Depending on the baby’s location, you might also get to hear their heartbeat.

During your early pregnancy ultrasound, your technician will not examine foetal anatomy. You are simply too early in your pregnancy for this. Instead, the technician will look at the following:

  • The pregnancy’s location, ensuring it is situated in the correct location – inside the uterus rather than outside the uterus (called an ectopic pregnancy)

  • The size of the gestational sac, which determines the age of the foetus and offers a due date

  • The heartbeat, if possible, both visually and by listening

They can also highlight any potential issues, empowering you to make informed decisions about your pregnancy journey.

Are your 8-week symptoms normal?

The first trimester is a period of rapid growth and change for both mum and bub. At eight weeks, your baby is the size of a raspberry or 16mm long. Incredibly, by week nine, your baby will be about twice this size.

At eight weeks, their head has begun to uncurl from their body, the arms are growing longer, and essential structures – bones, muscles, and skin, as examples – have started to develop. Their skin is still see-through, and they are constantly moving around.

This surge in growth and development can bring with it a slew of symptoms, including the following:

  • Fatigue

  • A metallic taste in your mouth

  • Sore breasts

  • Thicker and shinier hair

  • Bloating

  • Cramping, similar to period pain

  • Headaches

  • Morning sickness

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Frequent urination

  • A heightened sense of smell

  • Heartburn

Experiencing one or more of these symptoms is normal and not typically cause for concern. However, if you have light bleeding or spotting or significant or unusual pain, contact your doctor and schedule an early pregnancy scan.

The sooner you understand what’s causing your symptoms, the sooner you can take action.

Does everyone need an early pregnancy ultrasound?

It is your body and your baby. Whether you decide to undertake an early pregnancy scan is entirely up to you and your family.

While the choice is yours to make, early scans are recommended, particularly for expectant parents that fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • You have a history of ectopic pregnancy

  • You have a history of early miscarriage

  • You became pregnant through an assisted fertility treatment

In addition, if you are experiencing symptoms that are causing you to worry, an ultrasound can give you much-needed answers. At Harley Street Ultrasound, we give you your results on the same day as your appointment, so you don’t have to wait around.

What if you can’t see the baby or hear a heartbeat?

If you can’t see the baby or hear a heartbeat, the worst has not necessarily occurred. Often, the baby is in a position that obstructs your view and prevents the heartbeat from being heard.

Another possibility is that you have miscalculated the date of conception. If you conceived later than you thought, you might be too early in your pregnancy to see or hear anything. There might also be anatomic issues with the uterus or fibroids present that make clear ultrasound images a little more difficult to obtain.

In some scenarios, however, an early pregnancy scan can flag potential problems. If the baby is not visible inside the uterus, you could have an ectopic pregnancy. In others, a blighted ovum – where the embryo stops developing but the gestational sac remains – might be the cause. Miscarriage is, unfortunately, another possibility.

Your doctor will shed light on what is happening and the reasons why.

What happens before and after a pregnancy scan?

Before your pregnancy ultrasound, you may be advised to drink several glasses of water about an hour before your appointment. A full bladder can improve visibility. Besides this, there are no other special preparations required.

After your exam, you can return to your normal diet and activities right away, unless your doctor instructs you otherwise.

Are there any risks or adverse side effects associated with an early pregnancy scan?

When performed by a qualified, experienced, and compassionate technician, there are no known risks or adverse side effects associated with pregnancy ultrasounds. Both you and your baby will be safe during and after the examination.

Ultrasounds do not use radiation to capture images of your baby. Instead, they use harmless sound waves. Doctors have used this technology for more than three decades, and during this time, researchers have not uncovered any risks.

In addition, the ultrasound process should be pain-free. If you experience discomfort at any point, let your technician know.

Private early pregnancy scans

At Harley Street Ultrasound, we understand the rollercoaster of early pregnancy. Our tailored 8-week pregnancy scans are performed by experienced specialists, giving you total peace of mind.

Our team provides personalised advice, addresses your concerns, and gives you same-day results, so you don’t have to worry.

Committed to an industry-leading level of care, our comprehensive private ultrasound services cover every stage of pregnancy – from the early pregnancy scan and gender and foetal wellbeing scan to the anatomy scan and foetal growth scan.

We can also perform a non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), which you can take from nine weeks gestation.

We are by your side every step of the way. Schedule your appointment online today in four easy steps or get in touch, and our team can answer any questions you might have.

We look forward to walking beside you on this exciting and life-changing journey.

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At the HSUG, our specialist team delivers private ultrasound scans designed to give you the insight and peace of mind you need. We are the experts when it comes to ultrasonic diagnosis and treatment, and we have a strong track record of providing reassurance to our patients when they need it most.

You’ll find us on Harley Street in London — a convenient location with a rich history of medical excellence. Our team is committed to continuing that history with our own set of expert services.

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