What is the Baby Development Scan?
The NHS fetal screening program in the UK does not include any additional scans after the 18-20 weeks anomaly scan for pregnant women with no risk factors. This means that for the majority of women, the 18-20 weeks scan is the last scan in their pregnancy. However, in many other countries, there are additional ultrasound scans schedules for the third trimester, which aim to evaluate fetal growth and development.
According a recent publication by two London-based hospitals, a quarter (24.8%) of all fetal anomalies are diagnosed in the third trimester (35-37 weeks). The study found that the main organs affected by late manifesting anomalies were the brain, the heart, and the kidneys.
The fetal brain develops throughout all stages of pregnancy and continue developing even after birth. Unfortunately, some severe brain anomalies can have delayed development or manifestation, thus not be picked up by some of the anomaly scans performed earlier in the pregnancy. Late manifesting anomalies can also affect the heart, some of which include valvular disease, tumours, and heart rhythm abnormalities.
Our Fetal Development Scan aims to exclude fetal anomalies which have a late presentation, and can be used to observe fetal growth and wellbeing.
Our Fetal Development Scan combines the Late Anomaly Scans and an examination of Fetal Wellbeing
During the Fetal Development Scan, we perform a Wellbeing Scan together with a thorough examination of the fetus, placenta. amniotic fluid, and the womb.
The full details of the Fetal Development Scan include:
- Fetal echocardiography (heart scan) with colour Doppler flow imaging (looking at how the blood flows through the heart),
- An examination of the brain, kidneys, and the stomach,
- An examination of other fetal structures visible by this stage (which are dependent on fetal position),
- A fetal growth scan,
- A fetal wellbeing examination (fetal movements, amniotic fluid, and fetal Dopplers used to detect the fetal heartbeat),
- An examination of the placenta.
What is the difference between our Fetal Development Scan and Growth Scan available elsewhere?
As the name suggests, the primary purpose of the Growth Scan is to measure the dimensions of the baby, without looking at its anatomy or structural development. Thus, the anomalies undiagnosed in the earlier scans (for various reasons) can be yet again missed by the Growth Scan.
On the other hand, the Fetal Development Scan aims to check structural and developmental aspects of the baby as well as its in-utero environment.
Can the combination of all the scans mentioned exclude all anomalies and problems?
No, unfortunately it is impossible to diagnose all anomalies before birth. The most common unrecognised anomalies are isolated cleft palate (a split in the roof of the mouth where the lips are intact) and abnormalities of the external genitalia (ambiguous genitalia).
Is it possible to perform a 4D scan during Fetal Development Scan?
Yes, we try to get good quality 3D/4D images of your baby during this scan. We are aware that many parents enjoy seeing these images of their baby and we are happy to accommodate this. Having said that, in some instances if the baby is not positioned correctly or we are unable to get a good quality image, we will not push or disturb your baby just for the image.
Please remember that the primary aim of the Baby Development Scan is to check the health and development of your baby, not for keepsake images, although we will try to capture these as well, where possible.