Obstetric Ultrasound Examination

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-968/2021
  • Departments: Maternity Services, Radiology
  • Last Updated: 20 May 2021


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your examination. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you your midwife or doctor. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

At the hospital you and the person accompanying you must wear a mask to your appointment. If either of you are exempt from wearing a mask you will be asked to wear a face shield. If you do not have either of these items we can provide you with them. If you refuse to wear either of these items we will not perform your scan. We ask this to keep ourselves, you and the people that we see after you, safe.

What is an obstetric ultrasound examination?

An obstetric ultrasound scan performed during pregnancy to look in detail at the anatomy of your baby. In the first 12 weeks scans are performed to date your pregnancy. Scans are also offered at 12 weeks to measure the thickness at the back of your baby’s neck to help calculate the risk of serious genetic conditions. Between 18 to 20 + 6 weeks a scan is performed to assess your baby’s detailed structures to detect any serious condition or abnormality. In some women, scans are required after 28 weeks if your baby is at risk of being too small when it is born. Other scans are performed throughout if a doctor or midwife has any concerns about the health and well-being of you or your baby.

You will be asked to lie on an examination couch in a darkened room. The person undertaking your scan will either be a sonographer or doctor. They will introduce themselves and explain the procedure before they start. There may also be an imaging support worker in the room. They are there to help you and the sonographer or doctor. You may ask them to leave if you would prefer not to be accompanied.

Occasionally you may need to have an internal ultrasound scan. This is performed if additional detail is required. This procedure will be explained to you and your consent will be obtained before it is performed.

For your examination your lower abdomen will need to be exposed. We advise you wear appropriate clothing so that you do not need to get undressed. Cool gel is placed on your abdomen and a probe is moved over the skin. Gentle pressure is required to obtain the best images. The images are displayed on a monitor which the sonographer or doctor looks at and interprets the findings. Once the examination is completed you will be given tissue to wipe away the gel. We can help you with this if you find it difficult.

Are ultrasound scans medical and clinical tests?

All scans performed in pregnancy are undertaken for clinical reasons. They are either routine screening examinations looking for abnormalities or they are undertaken because there is a risk of a problem with either you or your baby. Scans are not performed for social and reassurance reasons or for sexing the baby only. If you want to know the sex of your baby the sonographer may be able to tell you at your 18 to 20+6-week anomaly scan. If the baby is not lying in the correct position, we may not be able to tell your baby’s gender. We do not repeat the scan for this.

Fetal sexing is only performed at 18-20+6 days. We can only inform you, as the patient, verbally of the gender of your baby. We cannot inform other people, including your partner without you being told directly. We cannot write it down and place it in an envelope for you to look at later. Providing the information to anyone other than you would be against the General Data Protection Regulation. To avoid disappointment please do not ask at any other scan appointment you may have.

Can anyone come with me for my scan?

We do appreciate that this is a special time for you and your family, however we need to be able to concentrate. All scans require a lot of concentration from the sonographer or doctor performing the test.  Distractions from children and multiple people in the scan room could cause them to miss important findings during the scan.

Therefore, you may bring only one other person to accompany you to your scan. No children are allowed into the scan room. We do not provide any childcare facilities. If you bring children to the appointment and they are unable to wait outside then your scan will be re-arranged. To avoid disappointment for your family, friends and children please do not bring more than one person with you to the hospital. They will not be able to sit and watch the examination.

We do not provide any childcare facilities. If you bring children to the appointment and they are unable to wait outside then your scan will be re-arranged.

Our waiting area is small with limited capacity for social distancing. You and the person accompanying you may be asked to wait in the canteen, or outside the hospital, until we have space in the waiting area. If this is the case, please do not be offended, we want to ensure the safety of you, your baby and others around you.

What can affect my ultrasound scan?

The use of a mobile phone is distracting and you are at risk of the sonographer or doctor not completing the examination correctly if they are disturbed. Therefore, the use of mobiles phones is not allowed within the scan rooms under any circumstance. Please do not be offended if the sonographer asks you or your partner to put your phones away before the examination starts. The scan will be terminated and you will be asked to leave if the use of a mobile phone continues during the examination. Video recording of any kind is not permitted as it could cause significant distraction and disturbance. Please note, if you or your partner attempt to video any part of the scan we will terminate your examination and rebook at a different time.

There are several factors that can affect the quality of your ultrasound scan. The position in which your baby is lying can affect how easy anatomy is to see. Sometimes the healthcare professional may ask you to go for a walk to try and get the baby to move and occasionally repeat the scan. This does not mean that there is a problem with your baby.

Another factor that can affect the scan is your body type. Some ladies have a lot of body tissue or dense body tissue which absorbs the sound waves and reduces the detail of the baby. Some ladies do not have sufficient body tissue to create a good boundary between the probe and the baby. In all of these cases the quality can be affected. To overcome this the sonographer may book your scans a week or so later than usual, for example near 21 weeks. This helps to improve detail. Please do not be offended if your scan is delayed, we are trying to get the best possible view of your baby that we can.

Can I buy photographs?

You will be given one free photograph at your 12-week scan and will not receive free photos at any other scans. You cannot purchase photos at any scans you have before and after the 12- and 20 – week scans.

The cost is £8 for 4 photos. Please purchase photos before you attend your appointment. You can purchase photograph vouchers from a machine located opposite the reception as you enter the hospital. The machine will give you a receipt that you give to the sonographer on entering the scan room. The machine accepts cash and card payments.  The sonographer will give you your photographs after your scan has finished.

We do not allow photos or filming to be taken during scans. If you attempt to do so, your scan will be terminated.

Do you have trainees in the department?

The Trust is a teaching hospital and training in ultrasound scanning is supported. A trainee may undertake your examination but they will be supervised or the scan will be checked by a qualified member of staff before you leave the department. You can decline a trainee performing your scan if you wish.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please contact the Ultrasound Department (01482) 607848



General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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