Scans, screening tests and check-ups

Once you've discovered that you are pregnant, it's important to get health advice to help make your pregnancy as safe and comfortable as possible.

Regular check-ups

Routine check-ups are usually carried out or organised by your midwife or doctor and will continue throughout the pregnancy.

These check-ups include:

  • taking your blood pressure
  • checking your urine for infections and blood sugar problems
  • checking your general well-being
  • feeling your tummy (to check your baby’s size and position)
  • listening to your baby’s heartbeat

Blood tests

During pregnancy, you will be offered a number of blood tests that provide information that helps you deliver a healthy baby.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the tests you are offered, what they will and will not tell you and what further decisions you may have to make may depend on the results.

Discuss any concerns you have with your midwife or doctor and feel free to take time to consider your options.

Tests offered and recommended include having your blood group and type identified to see whether you are rhesus negative or positive as well as for:

Ultrasound scans

An ultrasound scan involves having a scanning device rolled over your stomach. This allows images from inside your womb to be shown on a screen.

Most hospitals will offer women at least two ultrasound scans during pregnancy. The first is usually around eight to 12 weeks and is sometimes called the dating scan, as it can help determine when the baby is due.

The second scan usually takes place between 18 and 20 weeks and is called the anomaly scan because it checks for structural anomalies.

For women with a normal, healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy, ultrasound scans are not required after 24 weeks. If you are carrying more than one baby, you will need more ultrasound scans.

These may be used to:

  • work out the size and when the baby is due
  • work out whether you are expecting more than one baby
  • detect some abnormalities, particularly in your baby’s head or spine
  • check that your baby is growing and developing as expected - this is particularly important if you are expecting more than one baby
  • check the position of the baby and placenta

You should be offered a scan at:

  • about eight to 12 weeks
  • about 18 to 20 weeks

You may be asked to drink a lot of fluid before you have a scan. A full bladder pushes your uterus up and helps get a better picture.

Ask for the picture to be explained to you, if you have trouble making it out. You might want to bring your partner to the scan.

Although it is a medical procedure, many couples find seeing the scan helps to make the baby real for them. Ask if it is possible to get a copy of the picture. There may be a small charge for this.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough is a serious disease that causes long bouts of coughing and choking, making it hard for a baby to breathe. The ‘whoop’ noise is caused by gasping for breath after each bout of coughing.

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