Although every woman in the UK is invited to a standard 12-week scan with the NHS, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t book in for your first pregnancy scan much earlier than that. The technology is now standard enough for the cost to be no longer prohibitive -starting at around £55 – a small price to pay for peace of mind during what is an incredibly stressful time for many women.
When do you have the first scan?
An early private scan can take place as early as five weeks gestation. One of the main reasons why someone would choose to have an early pregnancy scan is reassurance – reassurance that they are indeed pregnant and that all appears to be in order.
Sometimes when you are first pregnant, because your body is going through so many dramatic changes, you can feel concerned, particularly if it is your first pregnancy ever. It may be that you are experiencing pain that does not feel quite right or that your body is experiencing sensations that you have never felt before and are concerning to you. An early pregnancy reassurance scan will give you the peace of mind that all is well and perfectly normal.
In this day and age, we are very fortunate to have access now to early private scans at affordable prices that can complement the standard NHS scans. Discomfort during pregnancy can be routine but unpredictable, and you do not want to keep running back to the NHS. Being able to access the different pregnancy scan packages at private clinics across the UK makes you feel reassured and back in control of a process that can be frightening.
What does pregnancy at six weeks look like?
At six weeks, your baby is about the size of a tadpole, pomegranate seed or grain of rice. Normally the foetus is visible using an external scan. However, in some circumstances, it may be necessary for an internal scan using a vaginal wand. If this is the case, the sonographer discusses the reasons for your informed consent.
Before six weeks, the chances are you will not see the heartbeat. Do not worry about this – this is perfectly normal. From six weeks onwards, the heartbeat starts to be more visible. For this reason alone, it may be better to wait until six weeks before you book an early pregnancy scan.
Can we see if we are having twins?
There is a possibility of identifying twins (or even triplets) as early as six weeks, but it is not a certainty.
Can we rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilised egg implants itself in the fallopian tube as opposed to within the uterus. If a woman is experiencing severe abdominal pain and spotting early on in the pregnancy, this can be a symptom of ectopic pregnancy, and she must go for emergency treatment.
If you have an early pregnancy scan, you may not yet have experienced the pain. If the scan indicates that the foetus is indeed lodged outside of the uterus, then you must inform your doctor, who will advise an immediate termination. An ectopic pregnancy is extremely dangerous to the pregnant woman and must be dealt with accordingly.
Will we be able to tell if it’s a boy or a girl?
No. At six weeks, your baby is still not developed enough for the sonographer to identify the sex of your baby. A separate gender scan can be carried out at 16 weeks to confirm this development for you – if that is what you want.
Is it ever too early for a scan?
Suppose you scan too early on in your pregnancy. In that case, you will not be able to get a clear picture of the foetus – at earlier than five weeks, all you’ll probably be able to see is the gestational sac and yolk, which do not resemble what we understand as a foetus. You’ll be better off waiting until after the five-week mark for a scan if you want to get that early pregnancy reassurance.
Also, if you have the scan too early, your sonographer may not be able to detect your baby’s heartbeat. While this is perfectly normal before the six-week date, it may upset you unnecessarily. For your own emotional well-being, it may be best to wait just another week until after the six-week mark to get a much fuller (and more reassuring) picture.
Pregnancy is both a wildly exciting and absolutely terrifying rollercoaster for many women. Throughout the 40-week gestation period, there is a myriad of milestones that mark your progress. Wherever you are in your journey, you can call us to discuss your next potential step.