Updated October 2018
The time has come, the walrus said, to have a closer look at that babe in your belly!
The anatomy scan ultrasound, or level 2 ultrasound, is an amazing experience. By this time, all of your baby’s major bits and pieces have formed and any abnormalities can be detected. The ultrasound can happen as early as 16 weeks, although most wait until around 17-20 weeks.
If you haven’t yet had a “real” ultrasound for your baby, this one is legit. In fact, this may be your last ultrasound, provided everything looks good. This “u/s” will typically occur at a perinatal center or it can take place at your doctor’s office. Bring some popcorn and your favorite person; the whole show can take up to an hour.
What are they looking for?
Well, a LOT. Here is a short list:
— determining (or confirming) your baby’s age/due date
— measurements of the head, length, and “long bones” to ensure baby is growing properly
— a survey of all major organs: the four chambers of the heart, both kidneys, the bladder, brain, stomach, spine, and most importantly, the you-know-what! (or NOT). Be sure to tell your technician up front if you don’t want to know the gender!! (And be advised that EVERYTHING looks like a penis, so don’t jump to conclusions…)
— the umbilical cord (you should have a three vessel cord: two arteries and one vein)
— the location of the placenta
— the fetal heart rate
— amniotic fluid levels
— maternal pelvic structures
Note that the diagnostic accuracy of the anatomy scan ultrasound is reduced in women with increased body fat.
The technician will also take freeze frames of each of the relevant shots to keep in your baby’s file for future reference. They may also give you a CD or a DVD of the pictures so you can post scary looking 3D ultrasound pics to Facebook and really creep out all your friends who don’t have babies. MU-hu-hahahaha.
The most common abnormal finding is the location of the placenta. If the embryo implants low in the uterus, the placenta may fully or partially cover the opening of the cervix. This is called placenta previa and occurs in 1-3% of pregnancies. A partial previa will usually resolve on its own by 28 weeks, while a complete previa will require a C-section around 36 weeks (yay modern medicine – if this were 200 years ago, you probably wouldn’t survive).
If there are any problems, you will most likely speak to a perinatologist, an OB who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.
Try to enjoy the show and not dwell on all the scary things they can discover, although that is easier said than done.
You should wear a loose-fitting, two-piece outfit for the anatomy scan ultrasound. Don’t wear a dress! Otherwise you’ll have to strip. Only the lower abdominal area needs to be exposed during this procedure. They may ask you to show up with a full bladder (like it’s not always full anyway – sheesh). 32 ounces is a LOT of water to drink. HOPEFULLY, they will call you back soon and not make you wait in the lobby with that nice, soothing water feature that makes you want to… you may want to wear a panty liner just in case.
Don’t worry though, if you’re swimming into the exam room, notify the technician and he/she can hurry up and do the part-that-requires-a-full bladder, let you go pee, then come back for the rest.
Good luck and have fun! P.S. Are you in my posse on Facebook?
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