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Your Ultrasound Scan

What actually is an Ultrasound Scan?

Ultrasound scanning is a method of obtaining images of internal organs by sending high-frequency sound waves into the body. The scan works rather like sonar does in detecting submarines under the water. A device rather like a microphone - known as a probe - is pressed against the area being scanned, using jelly to improve contact. The probe sends out very high frequency sound waves which go into area being examined, and bounce back when they hit an organ (like an echo bounces back when you shout across a valley).

All this information is processed by a computer, which produces a map of the area being scanned, like on a radar screen. The technique allows us to see static structures, but also to observe moving parts, e.g., the heart of a baby in the womb. The sound-wave echoes are recorded and displayed as moving visual images.


Why is a scan recommended?

Most scans simply reassure you that everything looks normal with your baby and allows medical staff to check that your baby appears healthy and to confirm the estimated due date. (It is important to note however that having a normal scan does not in itself guarantee that your baby will be perfectly healthy).


When will I have a scan?

Everyone is offered a scan at some stage in pregnancy. Your first scan will usually take place at around 12 weeks into your pregnancy. This is known as the First Visit Scan. You will then be offered a Detailed Scan at 20 weeks. There are other scans but these only take place if there is a medical reason.


What types of scans are there?

There are three types of abdominal scans. These are the First Visit Scan, the Detailed Scan, and the Third Trimester Scan. There is also an Internal Scan which may be necessary.


What does a scan detect?

Movements such as the baby's heartbeat can be assessed and measurements can be made accurately on the images displayed on the screen. These measurements allow the medical staff to make accurate assessments about your baby's age, size and growth. Scanning can also be used to detect certain abnormalities such as Spina Bifida.


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 scanning safe?

Yes. There is no evidence to suggest that an ultrasound scan is harmful for you or your baby.


How can I get more information?

Questions about the scan can be answered when you attend for your appointment, or by telephoning the number given below for the hospital in your area. If you do not want a scan or are unable to keep your appointment please telephone the appointment contact number given below:

Aberdeen Maternity Hospital
Appointments & Questions - Tel: 0845 456 6000

Peterhead Community Hospital
Appointments - Tel: 01779 478234 ext.71445
Questions - Tel: 01224 552366

Jubilee Hospital Huntly
Appointments - Tel: 01466 792114
Questions - Tel: 01224 552366

Kincardine Community Hospital
Appointments - Tel: 01569 792032
Questions - Tel: 01224 552366

Fraserburgh Hospital
Appointments - Tel: 01346 513151 ext.71656
Questions - Tel: 01224 552366

Chalmers Hospital Banff
Appointments and Questions - Tel: 01261 812630

Dr. Gray's Hospital Elgin
Appointments - Tel: 01343 543131 ext.77329
Questions - Tel: 01343 543131 ext.77554

You can also email the Scanning Department if you would like some more information about a certain subject or have a particular concern about your pregnancy and someone will respond (via email) as quickly as possible.