What Happens at an Anatomy Ultrasound?

What’s that anatomy ultrasound all about anyway?

The anatomy or morphology ultrasound is a routine ultrasound that occurs between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. At this scan, the ultrasound tech (sonographer) examines the baby from head to toe. Like all routine medical procedures in pregnancy, you can choose whether you want to have this ultrasound or not. Before your ultrasound you will need to drink a lot of water and hold your bladder.

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The sonographer looks for specific anomalies and takes measurements to assess whether your baby is growing as expected. If you didn’t have a dating ultrasound, these measurements can help us confirm your due date. They also look at your baby’s umbilical cord to see if it has the typical 2 arteries and 1 vein. Some babies have just 1 artery and 1 vein.

The sonographer will look to see where your placenta is, and how close it is to your cervix. The sonographer also looks at how much amniotic fluid is around your baby.

You might be able to find out your baby’s sex at this scan. This depends on the policies of the place you are having your ultrasound done, as well as the position of your baby. The baby’s sex is not considered important medical information: this means that you will not be offered a follow-up ultrasound only to find out the baby’s sex if your baby’s genitals can’t be seen at the first scan. If you do want to know the sex of the baby you should tell the sonographer at the beginning of the appointment.

Can the ultrasound tell me that my baby is fine?

Unfortunately, no. Ultrasound can accurately identify some problems most of the time. For example, if your placenta is covering the cervix then the ultrasound will almost always see this. Many other issues are harder to detect on ultrasound and are often only detected after the baby is born. 

If they see something unusual on the ultrasound does that mean something is wrong?

No. It is pretty common for ultrasound reports to include findings that might sound scary but are just a variation on normal. Sometimes you might need to go back to so that they can take another look. There is no need to worry unless your care provider has told you that that there is a problem. Remember, most babies are born healthy!

Why are they asking me to come back for another scan?

Ultrasound technicians often cannot see everything they need to in one scan due to baby’s position or gestational age. If this happens, they will usually request you come back for another appointment. This is not cause for concern. Sometimes babies are just a bit stubborn! Sometimes the first ultrasound may have seen something unusual and a follow up look can confirm or rule out a problem. Your care provider will discuss the findings of your anatomy ultrasound with you at your next appointment and help you make a plan for follow-up if it’s necessary.

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Becky Yurkowski is a student midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about Becky here.