The 20-week anatomy scan is a crucial examination for your baby’s development. It’s also an exciting exam as it is when the sonographer will listen to the heartbeat and movements of your baby, to determine whether your baby is healthy. If the sonographer detects anything unusual, they will notify you in person and may ask for a follow-up test. While walking in for your 20-week exam is exciting, knowing what to expect and what will be examined can also be helpful for mothers-to-be for calming any nerves and understanding what the scan is for.
Understanding an Anatomy Scan
An anatomy scan is a test performed to evaluate the baby’s development in preparation for their arrival. Since a growing fetus is tiny and indistinguishable by ultrasound until the final few weeks of pregnancy, during this time, it is vitally important to know the baby’s growth, size and movements to recognize if anything is wrong.
What the Scan Looks At
In short, your sonographer is looking out for any abnormalities during the scan.
The examination includes checking the baby’s position and size of all developing organs and anatomical parts.
- The Heart: The technician will check that the baby’s heart is beating. They will also be able to determine if the heart has an opening or not, as well as any fluid or if fluid is only on one side.
- Spine, Neck and Brain: Sonographers use their skill to examine your baby’s spine, neck and brain. Your technician will look for abnormalities such as open fontanelles, bulging eyes and other signs of a suspected problem. In addition, they will confirm that the baby’s brain and spinal cord can develop normally.
- Kidneys and Ureters: The technician will scan your baby’s kidneys and ureters, which are tubes that connect the bladder with the kidneys so that urine can be properly passed.
- Chest Cavity and Lungs: The sonographer checks the size of your baby’s chest cavity to see if their lungs are growing as they should be. They also check for any signs of fluid or fluid-filled pockets in the chest cavity, which may be signs of a heart problem. This is visible later in the pregnancy, so this scan is an essential precursor to understand how your baby is developing thus far.
- Legs and Arms: The technician will look for abnormalities in your baby’s hands, arms, legs and toes. They will check for clubbed feet, fused fingers or hips positioned in strange ways beyond the normal. They will be able to check for primarily genetic conditions that you may have from your family history that affect limb growth and disfigurements.
- Hands, Fingers, Feet and Toes: The sonographer looks for the ten fingers and toes and any abnormalities in them. They will check for a short or absent thumb, webbed hands and syndactyly of the toes, which is a congenital condition in which there is fusion of the bone or skin in the foot digits. They will also look at the fingers to see if they have extra skin, all of which are predominantly genetic conditions.
- Nose, Lips, Eyes and Face: In this area, the sonographer is looking for anomalies like a cleft palate and other things that may not be visible to the naked eye. They will also be looking for eye abnormalities and whether your baby has any fluid behind the lens.
- Digestive Tracts: The final observance includes ensuring that your baby’s mouth, throat, windpipe and digestive tracts are healthy. They will look at the stomach and intestines as well, to confirm that there is no obstruction of any kind. Thus, making sure you stay hydrated during your pregnancy is important, as dehydration can cause problems for your baby in this department. At this point, the sonographer will also check whether your baby’s organs have appropriately formed throughout the pregnancy thus far.
Is a 20-Week Anatomy Scan Harmful?
No. Studies have shown that ultrasound scans are not harmful to you or your baby, and a 20-week ultrasound is considered medically necessary to detect potentially life-altering anomalies.
They are a crucial examination for your baby’s development, as this is when your baby will be the smallest and change most often. The technique and equipment used are of top quality, ensuring that you and your baby are safe.
While it is a routine exam and relatively simplistic scan, at least for you, if you have any questions about the process, be sure to talk to your doctor before the scan, as they can answer any questions and ensure your baby is safe and your mind is at ease during the process.