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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring my partner or a friend with me?

Yes. You can have one relative or a friend with you when you have your scan. But please don't bring children under 5 years old because they do not like the dark room and get bored - the person scanning (who may be a midwife, medical doctor, sonographer or radiologist) will need to concentrate whilst scanning your baby.

Will I have to wait long?

Sometimes there can be a considerable wait in the scanning department due the large workload of the staff and the possibility of finding a problem which needs to be dealt with there and then. Please wait - your turn will come.

How should I prepare for my scan?

You should wear a loose fitting two-piece outfit for the examination. Only the lower abdominal area needs to be exposed during this procedure; consequently, a two-piece outfit will prevent you from having to readjust or remove all of your clothing.

If an ultrasound is required early in your pregnancy you may be required to have a full bladder for the procedure. Air interferes with soundwaves so if your bladder is distended (full), the air-filled bowel is pushed out of the way and an image of the uterus and your baby is obtained. About an hour and a half before the procedure you should empty your bladder. You may be instructed to drink up to six glasses of water and avoid urinating until the procedure is completed. A full bladder is not usually necessary in the later stages of pregnancy unless the position of the placenta needs to be checked.

How is the scan performed?

You will be asked to lie on your back or side. You will also be asked to expose your lower abdominal area. The person doing the scanning then spreads a warm water-soluble gel over your lower abdomen. This gel allows transmission of the sound waves by making it easier to move the transducer over you abdomen and by sending the sound beam directly into the body without the interference of air on the skin. The transducer will emit high-frequency sound waves as the person doing the scanning moves it over your abdomen. The ultrasound examination usually takes between 5 and 20 minutes.

Is the procedure painful?

This is a painless procedure. There may be varying degrees of discomfort from pressure as the person doing the scanning guides the transducer over your abdomen, especially if you are required to have a full bladder. At times the person doing the scanning may have to press more firmly to get closer to the baby to better visualise the structure. This discomfort is temporary.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

You will receive the results of your scan there and then. The person doing the scanning will be able to answer any questions you may have and give you feedback about your scan at the same time.

What are the benefits vs. the risks?

Ultrasound does not use x-rays to produce an image - neither you nor your baby are exposed to ionizing radiation. Ultrasound has been used to evaluate pregnancy for nearly four decades and there has been no evidence of harm to the mother or the baby. Ultrasound allows us the confirm dates, identify multiple pregnancies and identify babies that may require closer monitoring during pregnancy.

What are the limitations of ultrasound?

Obstetric ultrasound cannot identify all fetal abnormalities. Consequently, when there are clinical or laboratory suspicions for a possible abnormality, you may have to undergo further testing such as amniocentesis (the evaluation of fluid surrounding the baby) or chorionic villus sampling (evaluation of placental tissue) to determine the health of the baby, or you may be referred by your midwife or GP to a specialist.

I want more information about a specific area - What can I do?

If you would like some more information about a certain subject or have a particular concern about your pregnancy then you can email one of the midwives in the Scanning Department about your concerns and they will respond (via email) as quickly as possible.