Why an anomaly scan?
Fortunately, the vast majority of children are born healthy. Anomalies are rare and can not always be seen on an ultrasound scan. But some anomalies can be seen and the best time to look for them is between 19 and 20 weeks at the anomaly scan, sometimes also called anatomy scan or 20 week scan.
What is the anomaly scan exactly?
At 19 to 20 weeks the baby has grown big enough to evaluate the organs and structures and to search for anomalies with an ultrasound scan. We will look at the brain, skull, face, spine, heart, stomach, intestines, kidneys, bladder and limbs of the child. Furthermore the size of your child will be measured, the location of the placenta assessed and the amount of amniotic fluid checked.
The results of the scan will be discussed with you immediately. In the case that an anomaly has been found or that there are doubts about the scan we will contact your midwife. She will discuss further policy and actions with you.
To do the anomaly scan or not
The 20 week scan is meant for those women who do not have a higher risk for a child with an anomaly. The women who do have such an increased risk due to, for example, a birthdefect that runs in the family are advised to have a specialised version of this ultrasound scan in the hospital (GUO1).
With an the anomaly scan a big proportion of all anomalies can be detected. A lot of parents hope this ultrasound will give them the relief that their baby looks normal and healthy. Mostly this will be the case, the scan will be fun and most children are born healthy. But even when everything looks normal we can never garantee that your child is totally healthy. There remain a lot of things that can not be seen on an ultrasound.
In the event that an anomaly is seen and later confirmed this will put parents in a difficult situation. Depending on the seriousness of what has been found a choice has to be made about continuing the pregnancy and preparing for a child with a certain defect. The other option with very serious anomalies can be to terminate the pregnancy. These are never easy considerations and choices. The question is whether you want to know ahead of time or not. It is good to try to prepare yourself for the possible outcome of the anomaly scan by thinking through what would be best for you. Most parents who end up in the position of deciding about the future of their pregnancy and their child find this a very tasking experience, both fysically and mentaly.
The anomaly scan takes around 40 minutes. In our experience this is a long time for (small) children, they tend to get bored in the dark scanroom. We therefore can not allow any children present during a medical scan.