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Nuchal Translucency Scan or 12 Week Scan

With a Nuchal Translucency Scan (also sometimes called the First Trimester Scan), the baby can be seen in greater detail. This scan confirms that there is a heartbeat, and the number of foetuses. The baby’s head, trunk, arms, legs, hands and feet can be seen and your medical professional will also look at the placenta, amniotic fluid and umbilical cord.

Nuchal Translucency Scan or 12 Week Scan

Nuchal Translucency Scan or 12 Week Scan Picture
(Click image to enlarge)

When is the scan performed?
This scan is performed between 11 and nearly 14 weeks of pregnancy, preferably at 12 weeks. However, it gives a better view of the baby at 13 weeks, particularly if the mother is overweight.

What will I learn from the scan?
A Nuchal Translucency Scan can show the baby in remarkable detail: head and brain, hands and feet, toes and fingers, body, spine, tummy wall, stomach and bladder. The placenta site is also documented.

A principle focus of this scan is on the skin fold behind the neck (the nuchal fold). In some clinics this scan is refined by performing three additional ultrasound observations: the nasal bone, the ductus venosus blood flow and the heart tricuspid valve blood flow. Using these measurements, the most reliable prediction of the risk of Down’s Syndrome, Edward’s Syndrome and Patau’s Syndrome can be made. If these risks are of a level to provoke anxiety for the couple then a further invasive test can be considered. This can be a CVS (chorionic villous sample) before 16 weeks and an amniocentesis after 16 weeks.

The detection of the sex of the baby is difficult and not very reliable at this time.

Nuchal Translucency Scan or 12 Week Scan Video
(Click image to play)

How is the scan performed and how long does it take?
The Nuchal Translucency Scan is performed trans-abdominally (through the tummy) and usually takes 20 to 30 minutes to perform.

Do I need to prepare for the scan?
There is no special preparation needed for this scan and there is no need for a full bladder. However, in Britain this scan is usually performed in association with a blood test (to measure 2 pregnancy hormones PAPPA and HCG) and is therefore called the Combined Test. From this information the risk of your baby having fetal abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome can be calculated. This will be expressed as a probability of abnormality of one in “something”. 1/300 or better is considered a good result. The blood test can be taken anytime from 10 weeks but for convenience they are usually performed together.

What do I get at the end of the scan (pictures/DVD)?
You will have several pictures of the baby to keep.

Should I have the scan with a consultant or sonographer?
If you are having a normal pregnancy, then in most cases a scan by a fully qualified, experienced sonographer is advisable. If however, you are experiencing complications with your pregnancy or need a second opinion, a scan with an obstetrics consultant is recommended.

How much will it cost?
For a scan coupled with a blood test, prices range from around £170 to £250.

Related Resource: List of high quality private pregnancy scan clinics in the UK

Related Article: The Harmony Prenatal DNA Test – Non-invasive Screening For Down Syndrome