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What Anatomy Ultrasound Scans Reveal About Your Baby

anatomy scan

An anatomy ultrasound scan, often referred to as the fetal survey or the mid-pregnancy scan, is typically performed between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. This detailed scan examines your baby's anatomy and checks for any abnormalities in development.

The Anatomy Scan: Why It's Done and What to Expect

The primary purpose of an anatomy scan is to ensure that your baby is developing normally. It allows healthcare providers to identify any potential issues early on, which can be crucial for planning and managing the pregnancy.

Expect the procedure to take about 30 to 60 minutes. You may be asked to have a full bladder, as this helps improve the quality of the ultrasound images and the sonographer may guide you through the scan, pointing out your baby's various features as they go.

Revealing Your Baby's Growth

One of the most exciting aspects of the anatomy scan is seeing how much your baby has grown. The scan measures various parts of the baby’s body to ensure they're developing as expected.

Head Circumference

The sonographer will measure the circumference of your baby’s head to monitor brain development. These measurements help determine if the baby's growth is on track.

Abdominal Circumference

The abdominal circumference provides insight into your baby's overall growth and development. It can also indicate how well the baby is processing nutrients.

Femur Length

The length of the baby's femur (thigh bone) is measured to estimate their growth and development. This measurement, combined with others, helps create a comprehensive picture of your baby's progress.

Examining Major Organs

The anatomy scan thoroughly examines your baby’s major organs to ensure they are developing correctly.


The sonographer will check the structure and function of your baby's heart, looking for proper formation of chambers, valves, and blood flow.

Brain and Spine

A detailed examination of the brain and spine can reveal any neural tube defects or other abnormalities. This is crucial for early detection and intervention.

Kidneys and Bladder

The scan will confirm that your baby's kidneys are present and functioning and that the bladder is filling and emptying correctly.

Checking for Physical Abnormalities

In addition to internal organs, the anatomy scan also looks for any physical abnormalities.

Facial Features

The scan checks the development of the baby's facial features, including the lips, nose, and eyes. This helps identify conditions like cleft lip or palate.

Limbs and Digits

The sonographer will count and examine the baby's fingers and toes, ensuring they are growing properly and without abnormalities.

Abdominal Wall

The scan also includes a check of the baby's abdominal wall to ensure there are no hernias or other issues.

Determining Gender

For many parents, finding out their baby's gender is one of the most anticipated parts of the anatomy scan.

The sonographer will look at the baby's genital area to identify whether you are having a boy or a girl. This can usually be done with high accuracy during this stage of pregnancy.

If you prefer to keep the gender a surprise, make sure to inform the technician ahead of time. They can avoid that area or keep the information off the final report.

While usually accurate, it's important to remember that determining the gender through ultrasound is not 100% guaranteed. There’s always a small chance of error.

Early Detection of Congenital Conditions

One of the critical functions of the anatomy scan is the early detection of congenital conditions, which can significantly impact your baby’s health.

Heart Defects

Detecting heart defects early allows for better planning and immediate intervention upon birth if necessary. Some heart issues can be treated or managed more effectively with early preparation.

Neural Tube Defects

Early detection of conditions like spina bifida enables parents and doctors to plan for the necessary medical care and support from birth.

Chromosomal Abnormalities

While the anatomy scan can’t diagnose chromosomal conditions like Down syndrome, it can reveal markers that may suggest further testing is needed.

Placenta and Amniotic Fluid Check

The health of the placenta and the level of amniotic fluid are also assessed during the anatomy scan.

Placenta Position

The position of the placenta is crucial for a healthy pregnancy. The scan ensures that it is correctly positioned and not covering the cervix, which could cause complications.

Amniotic Fluid Levels

Adequate levels of amniotic fluid are essential for the baby’s development. The ultrasound checks whether the fluid levels are within normal ranges.

Detecting Placenta Issues

The scan can identify potential issues such as placenta previa or placental abruption, which require careful monitoring and management.

Twin and Multiple Pregnancies

If you are expecting twins or multiples, the anatomy scan becomes even more essential.

Growth Comparison

The scan will compare the growth of each baby to ensure they are developing at a similar rate and that one baby is not receiving more nutrients than the other.

Identifying Complications

Multiple pregnancies carry a higher risk of complications. The scan helps identify any potential issues early on, allowing for better planning and management.

Coordinating Care

With twins or multiples, frequent monitoring is crucial. The anatomy ultrasound provides a baseline for future scans and helps coordinate care plans.

Emotional Connection and Bonding

Besides medical insights, the anatomy ultrasound offers an emotional connection for parents. For many parents, seeing their baby move and grow on the screen fosters a deeper emotional bond and a sense of reality about the pregnancy. The images and videos from the scan become cherished memories that you can look back on and share with your child in the future. Bellybaloo helps make these moments easily accessible and sharable, anytime and anywhere.

Preparing for the Anatomy Scan

Knowing what to expect and how to prepare can make the anatomy ultrasound experience smoother and more enjoyable.

What to Wear

Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may need to partially disrobe for the scan, so easy-to-remove attire is recommended.

Eating and Drinking

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions regarding eating and drinking before the scan. A full bladder may be required for optimal imaging.

Bringing Support

Consider bringing your partner or a support person. Their presence can make the experience more enjoyable and help you remember details later.

Understanding the Results

Interpreting the results of the anatomy ultrasound can be both exciting and overwhelming.

Immediate Feedback

The technician may provide some immediate feedback during the scan, pointing out key features and measurements.

Doctor's Analysis

Your healthcare provider will review the detailed results and discuss any findings with you, explaining what they mean for your pregnancy. Depending on the results, your doctor might recommend further testing or additional ultrasounds to monitor your baby's development.

The anatomy ultrasound scan is a remarkable tool that offers expecting parents a wealth of information about their baby's development. From checking growth and organ function to identifying potential issues early, this scan plays a crucial role in ensuring a healthy pregnancy. By understanding what to expect and how to prepare, you can make the most of this exciting milestone and enjoy the journey of seeing your baby grow and thrive. Remember, the anatomy ultrasound is not just a medical procedure; it's a window into the incredible journey of your baby's development. Embrace it with confidence and excitement, knowing that you are taking an important step in nurturing the new life growing inside you.


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