The Long Awaited Anatomy Scan: What To Expect

Sometime around twelve weeks you had your First Trimester Screening and it was great to see the baby a little clearer than before. Maybe baby moved for you or showed off his cute profile – the first real glimpse of your tiny little human. Afterward, they gave you results and sent you on your way. What you didn’t realize, was that you would likely have to wait two WHOLE months to see your sweet babe again, with one Doppler (heartbeat) scan in-between. Oy Vey! 

After 8-10 LONG weeks, you will go back in for your Second Trimester Anatomy Scan, usually between weeks 18-22. All you know for sure, is that you cannot wait to see your little bean again! Who wouldn’t be dying to see that face? What you don’t know for sure, is what exactly is going to happen at this scan. You were likely told two things: 1) To show up to the appointment with a full bladder (yes, you’ll be scolded for alleviating yourself beforehand…or at least I was) and 2) That this scan will be quite a bit longer (approximately 45 minutes).

So what can you expect? Here’s our BB Second Trimester Anatomy Scan rundown. 

Wear a garment with easy belly access. You likely won’t need to undress more than your midsection, so be prepared to expose the bump upon arrival. The Sonographer will first put a warm jelly (ultrasound gel) on your belly and will begin the scan. The main purpose of this test is exactly as it sounds: to check the baby’s anatomy from head to toe. 

Ideally, your babe will be awake and moving around a bit.

BB TIP: have a little caffeine or juice (or anything high in sugar content) about 30 minutes before your appointment. If baby is curled up in a ball being uncooperative, other measures may need to be taken to get the necessary images for results. These other measures may include: added pressure or jiggling of the abdomen, chugging fruit juice and/or an internal ultrasound (if the cervix is not visible). You can try preventing this frustration by coming prepared, but in the end, we all know baby will do what baby wants, and very little is under our control. 

What are they looking for?

  • Arm length
  • Leg length
  • Fingers, Hands, Toes, Feet
  • Heart – 4 cavities 
  • Kidneys 
  • Cleft palate
  • Profile – nose bridge
  • Blood flow, major arteries 
  • Placenta position + size
  • Umbilical cord in relation with the position of the baby
  • Brain development
  • Spinal development 
  • Head size
  • baby’s sex***

Anything and everything that covers the baby’s basic anatomy will be photographed and measured if able. 

***Be sure to let your sonographer know if you do NOT wish to find out the baby’s gender at this exam. If you do, then get excited, because today is the day!!

What will this feel like for mom?

It will feel like any other abdominal scan, just prolonged and possibly with a bit more pressure. If an internal ultrasound is performed, it will be similar to the one(s) you had in your first trimester. The lubricated wand will go in and the tech will slowly move it from side-to-side to deeper investigate the baby’s positioning. These types of ultrasounds are no one’s favorite, but they are considered safe, and highly effective in finding the results needed to properly administer this exam. 

What will you see? (This is the BEST part!)

All of it! You and your partner will get to see everything the Sonographer is seeing, and hopefully pointing out to you.

Some highlights: Your baby’s adorable hands and feet. A beautiful rounded spine. Their profile and if you’re lucky, a face shot! 

When will you know if everything is OKAY?

At most clinics, the results will be apparent immediately! The Sonographer will likely be walking you through it as he/she scans and then afterward will show the results to a doctor for review. At ours, the Doctor came in after five minutes to tell us our results. 

If the scan took place at a third party facility (and so many of them do), then you will need to schedule a follow-up with your OB shortly after to review. 

This scan is by far the most exciting and telling of them all.

And chances are, this will be the last time you’ll be seeing lil’ babe until birth (or possibly late in the third trimester), so enjoy it while you’re there and soak up every little bit of baby’s features growing inside!


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