The fetal anomaly scan is a detailed ultrasound scan performed to take a closer look at the womb and the baby between weeks 18-21 of pregnancy.
Purpose of the fetal scan
The aim of this scan is to detect abnormalities in the unborn baby.
Is the fetal scan mandatory?
All pregnant women are informed about the scan, its purpose, and what it can and cannot detect. Thereafter the decision is entirely hers. The woman’s consent is necessary for the scan to be performed.
Type of scan
There is technology available to produce both 2D and 3D images that may be black and white, or in colour. Different women’s hospitals offer different facilities. Make sure to pick a women’s hospital that fits what you want.
How is a fetal scan performed?
The sonographer applies a gel on the belly and moves a transducer over it to obtain images of the baby.
Duration of the scan
The fetal scan usually takes about half an hour.
Areas of focus in the scan
The sonographer will examine all your baby’s organs and take measurements.
|Baby’s body part||Checked for|
|Shape and size of head and brain||Brain problems|
|Abdominal wall||Whether it covers all the internal organs at the front|
|Heart||Equal size of atria and ventricles|
Proper functioning of valves
|Kidneys||Proper functioning of the bladder|
|Hands and feet||Development of muscles and fingers and toes|
|Amniotic fluid||Enough quantity for baby’s free movement|
|Circumference of head and abdomen; femur length||Match with standards of normal development|
Which abnormalities can be seen on the scan?
Sonographers have a list of conditions to look out for.
Here’s a list, along with the likelihood of detection:
- Absence of the top of the head (anencephaly): 98 per cent
- Cleft lip: 75 per cent
- Abdominal defects
- Missing or very short limbs: 60 per cent
- Spinal defects: 90 per cent
- Major kidney problems: 84 per cent
- Chromosomal abnormalities: 95 per cent
- Major heart problems: 50 per cent
Results of the scan
In most cases, babies develop normally, and no anomalies are picked up. In case a problem is suspected, the sonographer gets a second opinion from an experienced colleague or a specialist. It must also be remembered that scans aren’t fool-proof and there are chances the baby may be born with an anomaly that went undetected.
What happens in case a problem is detected
Other tests or scans may be recommended to understand the problem better. In case an anomaly is confirmed, the further course of action depends on its seriousness. Less serious anomalies may get better on their own. In case of serious anomalies, the family is provided with support, information about all the possible courses of action, including the termination of pregnancy, and the time to make a choice. The family’s choice is always respected.
Finding out about problems before birth helps plan post-birth treatment. This is especially beneficial in cases where surgery immediately after birth is likely to enhance the baby’s chance of recovery or survival.