Early Fetal Scans in London

Screening for over 100 anomalies at just 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Early Fetal Scan - The advancement of Fetal Medicine and ultrasound technology means that we can screen for your baby’s health at a much earlier stage

OUR EXPERTISE AND TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS US TO SCREEN FOR ANOMALIES EARLIER

The advancement of fetal medicine and pregnancy ultrasound technology means that we can screen for your baby’s health at a much earlier stage allowing more time for the management of the pregnancy following the scan.

3D ultrasound image we captured at 14 weeks showing human like features

THE COMPREHENSIVE EARLY FETAL PREGNANCY SCAN

The early fetal scan, which is our signature early pregnancy scan, aims to provide reassurance regarding the health and development of your baby.

This ultrasound scan provides an advanced examination of the baby’s anatomy from 12 weeks gestation, providing a meticulous top-to-toe examination of the fetus, with special attention being given to the brain and heart. Our protocol for the 12 weeks fetal assessment is similar to the NHS 20 weeks anomaly scan, however we will check even more structures, for example arms and legs. 

12 weeks into your pregnancy, your baby will be the size of a strawberry and grows around one millimetre per day. Remarkably, by this stage of pregnancy, the majority of your baby’s organs would already be formed, and the baby strongly resembles a small human!

Many fetal anomalies occur as a result of disturbances during the very early (embryological) development and are already starting to show signs at this stage – especially visible from 12 weeks. Our advanced ultrasound technology and the expertise Dr Ushakov has developed, allow us to view the baby’s main structures at an incredibly high resolution and detect those anomalies at earlier stages of the pregnancy.

Main objectives of the Early Fetal Scan

The main goal is to provide early reassurance to the parents and exclude a significant proportion of severe fetal anomalies (more than 50%). We screen for more than 100 different structural abnormalities such as severe heart defects, early brain anomalies, spina bifida, lethal skeletal dysplasias, other serious structural conditions and even missing fingers.

Ultrasound alone cannot exclude chromosomal conditions; a structurally normal looking baby can have serious chromosomal defects such as Down’s syndrome (Trisomy 21). Currently, the best screening option available for these syndromes is the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), which we strongly recommend getting in conjunction with this scan.

When to do an early fetal scan:

  • If you’ve had our 10 week dating scan and NIPT one-stop test, we would recommend delaying the early fetal scan until 15-16 weeks. The main reason for this is that at 15-16 weeks the baby will be structurally more mature, and we can exclude more anomalies compared to the same type of the scan at 12 weeks. The important point is that 10 most severe structural defects were already excluded for your baby by our 10-week scan.

  • If you haven’t had an early anomaly check by the 10 week scan, we would recommend to perform an early fetal scan as soon as possible (12-13 weeks) and to consider to have the scan in combination with NIPT in order to have accurate screening for Down’s syndrome.

  • For clarification of inconclusive first trimester findings on the NHS scan, such as increased nuchal translucency (NT) or other suspicious findings, we recommend performing an early fetal echocardiography. This combines expert evaluation of the early fetal heart with top-to-toe examination of the baby similar to the early fetal scan during the same appointment.

Your baby at 13 weeks is about the size of a plum (7cm)

Frequently Asked Questions

You have a question? We have an answer.

WHAT ANATOMICAL STRUCTURES DO WE CHECK ON THE EARLY BABY SCAN?

Our early fetal scan, which we perform at 12-16 weeks (12-13 weeks is the ideal time), is used to check more structures than an NHS anomaly scan at 18-20 weeks. The early baby scan examines the brain, face, neck, chest, heart, the great arteries, lungs, diaphragm, stomach, liver, intestines, abdominal wall, umbilical cord, kidneys, bladder, spine, limbs, hands with fingers, and feet. We also check the umbilical cord insertion into placenta, umbilical cord vessels, and the integrity of the amniotic sac.

WHEN CAN THE EARLY BABY SCAN BE PERFORMED?

The optimal time for an early baby scan is from 12 to 13 weeks, however if you’ve already had an early check up by our 10-week scan, we would recommend to have the scan at 15-16 weeks.

HOW IS THE EARLY BABY SCAN PERFORMED?

The best results are obtained by using a combination of the transabdominal (on the surface of your tummy) and transvaginal (a slim transducer will be inserted through the vagina) scan. The visualisation of the different fetal structures depends on many factors, such as the position of the womb, position of the fetus, and maternal abdominal wall thickness. The transvaginal ultrasound scan is optional, and often the transabdominal scan performed by our high-resolution transducers is enough for a thorough check of the baby. You will always have the option to opt-out of a transvaginal scan.

In about 10 % of women, the uterus is tilted backwards (retroflexed). If this is the case, a transvaginal scan is preferred due to the limited resolution of a transabdominal scan on a retroflexed uterus. In this instance you would be informed of this and given an opportunity to reach your own decision on whether you wish the transvaginal scan to be performed or not.

DO YOU NEED TO HAVE A FULL URINARY BLADDER FOR THE SCAN?

In short: NO.

Empty bladder policy: Our advanced ultrasound scanner can produce high quality diagnostic images without needing you to have a full bladder. This eliminates the need to feel uncomfortable before or during the vaginal scan.

Therefore, there is no need to arrive with a full bladder and we want you to feel as comfortable as possible. We also have a ladies’ room in our clinic, which you can use anytime you need.

CAN AN EARLY FETAL SCAN DETECT ALL FETAL ANOMALIES?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one test that can diagnose or exclude all fetal anomalies or diseases. However, we do keep up to date with the latest medical advancements and extract as much information from these as possible in order to provide the best quality of care.

That said, the early baby scan can detect a large proportion of fetal anomalies for pregnant women. Most importantly, it can diagnose some of the more severe abnormalities that can be lethal or associated with severe disability. The early detection of those anomalies increases your options for further management.

However, some anomalies are either not visible or not developed by 12-13 weeks. As a result, these would go undiagnosed. Fortunately, most of these anomalies are treatable after birth, nevertheless, some can be more serious, especially if they involve delayed development of the brain or heart.

Since an early baby scan cannot exclude all anomalies, especially those that manifest later in the pregnancy, we strongly recommend having follow-up scans:

We also strongly advise you to keep your scanning schedule with the NHS.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EARLY FETAL ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY AND THE EARLY FETAL SCAN?

The early fetal scan is an advanced screening test which includes comprehensive top-to-toe examination of the early fetus. This test is designed for low-risk women, and we strongly recommend it for every future mother. The test includes examination of the presence and size of 4 chambers of the heart and presence, position and size of two great arteries. The aim of the early fetal scan is to confirm normal development of the heart.

Early fetal echocardiography is a diagnostic test which aims to detect, evaluate and describe congenital heart defects for babies in high-risk groups (like increased NT, positive results of NIPT, abnormal appearance of the heart and other).  This test is performed only for the fetuses with the suspicion for heart defects or serious risk factors for cardiac anomaly. On this scan we perform meticulous examination of all fetal heart structures visible at this early stage. This scan also includes comprehensive top-to-toe examination of the baby like we do at the early fetal scan.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NUCHAL TRANSLUCENCY (NT) SCAN AND AN EARLY FETAL SCAN?

What we offer differs fundamentally from the traditional nuchal translucency (NT) scan. The early fetal scan is an advanced systematic examination of all fetal structures, especially the brain and the heart. This method is very thorough as it uses recent technological advancements of high-end ultrasound probes to produce high-resolution images at an early stage. We check all the baby’s structures, even its tiny fingers. Ultimately, the aim of the early fetal scan is to exclude as many fetal anomalies as possible and provide reassurance to the parents.

On the other hand, the nuchal translucency (NT) scan was developed nearly 30 years ago (1992), during the early days of ultrasound technology. Revolutionary at the time, the NT scan measures the amount of fluid in the back of the fetal neck. Increased NT is a nonspecific marker for chromosomal, genetic, cardiac, and structural problems; however, increased NT is also not an uncommon feature in a normal pregnancy. Conversely, most babies born with other anomalies, may have normal readings of NT.

Currently, NT readings are being used by the NHS as a part of a combined screening to assess the chance for Down’s syndrome (Trisomy 21), and for trisomy 18 and 12. The NT test can currently be done in any NHS Trust and is performed by specially trained sonographers, which have regular external audits.

Because of the importance of NT, we perform meticulous measurements of this marker during our early fetal scan; however, we do not use the NT thickness measurement for the assessment of Down’s syndrome (Trisomy 21). Instead, we use the more recently developed (2011) non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), which has a superior detection rate and less false positive results compared to the NT quantitative measure.

We use a NT thickness measurement of 3.5 mm as a cut-off for further referral of the mother to her healthcare provider. 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU FIND AN INCREASED NUCHAL TRANSLUCENCY (NT) FOR MY BABY AT THE EARLY FETAL SCAN?

We use a NT thickness measurement of 3.5 mm as a cut-off. If we will see that your baby has an increased NT, we will perform early fetal echocardiography for free to exclude severe heart defects as a cause for increased NT.

We will also help you with a further referral to your healthcare provider at the NHS or private care for a discussion regarding the option of invasive testing.

CAN I HAVE MY IMAGES FROM THE SCAN? WHAT ELSE WILL I GET?

Yes, of course. We use Tricefy which is a secure cloud system to upload images and videos from your scan to be viewed before you even leave the scanning room! You will also receive a hard and soft copy of your detailed ultrasound report as well as some high-quality colour printouts for you to take home with you!

Tricefy also allows you to download the images and videos from the scan to share with your loved ones via message/social media.

Do you want to know more about the Early Fetal Scan?

Contact us now
London Pregnancy Clinic
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Location

36 Spital Square

London E1 6DY
United Kingdom

Office Hours

Monday – Friday
9am-9pm

Saturday
10am-4pm

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Public Transport

Tube:
Elizabeth, Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines to Liverpool Street or Northern line to Moorgate.

Overground at Shoreditch High Street. All stations within 5-10 minutes' walk.

Parking

We are within the Congestion Charge Zone (just!) with a few pay-and-display parking spaces in front of the building. 

Parking available in Shoreditch which is just outside the Congestion Charge Zone.

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