What Types Of Abnormalities Can A Private Baby Ultrasound Scan Detect?

Ultrasound tests can detect physical abnormalities in pregnancy and they may be used in tandem with blood tests to check for chromosomal conditions, including Down’s syndrome and inherited illnesses, including sickle cell anaemia.

When you have a private baby scan, your sonographer will have a mental checklist, which will enable them to identify potential abnormalities; in order to check the baby, the sonographer will move the probe around your tummy, looking at the different body parts and taking measurements, which help to confirm that the baby is growing as expected.

At the 12-week scan, also known as the dating scan, it is not usually possible to notice subtle defects or abnormalities and these will probably be highlighted on the 20 week scan, also known as the mid-pregnancy, detailed or anomaly scan. At the 12-week stage, it may be possible to notice major abnormalities and further scans may be recommended; examples of issues, which may be detected at the dating scan include problems with the abdominal wall, abnormalities related to the development of the baby’s skull and issues linked to the umbilical cord.

At the anomaly scan, the sonographer will be able to obtain a much more detailed image of the baby and this enables them to check for a whole range of abnormalities, including structural defects and problems, which may affect the way the organs function. At this scan, your sonographer will look out for:

  • Anencephaly (when the top of the head is missing): this is detectable in 98 per cent of cases at this stage of the pregnancy
  • Defects affecting the abdominal wall, including when the bowel, liver or intestines protrude through the wall: this is detectable in 80 per cent of cases related to the liver and bowel (known as exomphalos) and 98 per cent of cases linked to the intestines (known as gastroschisis)
  • Defects affecting the spinal cord, including spina bifida: this is identifiable in 90 per cent of cases
  • Hydrocephalus (when there is too much fluid in the brain): this is detectable in 60 per cent of cases
  • Serious issues with the kidneys: this is visible in 84 per cent of cases
  • Missing limbs or restricted growth of the limbs: this is visible in 90 per cent of cases
  • Cleft lip: this is detectable in 75 per cent of cases
  • Major heart defects, including problems with the valves, the blood vessels and the heart chambers: detectable in 50 per cent of cases at this stage; if heart problems are suspected, additional tests, including a foetal echo may be recommended and the pregnancy will be monitored very closely. Babies who are born with heart defects often require treatment, which may include surgery, very shortly after they are born.
  • Diaphragmatic hernia (a hole in the muscular tissue, which separates the chest and abdominal wall): this is identifiable in 60 per cent of cases

If abnormalities are detected at the 20-week scan or a sonographer or obstetrician suspects there may be something wrong, it is common to arrange additional scans and other tests in order to confirm or rule out diagnoses. At every stage, you will be made aware of potential issues and any problems will be explained fully; you should never hesitate to ask questions and help and support are available to enable you to learn more about birth defects and genetic or inherited conditions and prepare for life when your baby arrives.

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