Women's Health

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The first two months of pregnancy can be very concerning for many women as symptoms such as vaginal bleeding and abdominal cramping are quite common. This leads to concerns about whether the pregnancy is developing normally or might result in a miscarriage or even an ectopic pregnancy.

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Patients can be seen quickly for necessary ultrasound examinations to confirm a healthy pregnancy. A Fetal Viability Scan is an ultrasound examination, usually carried out at 7 to 10 weeks, to confirm that the pregnancy is developing normally and to provide reassurance regarding possible miscarriage.

Additionally, this scan will confirm or exclude whether twins are present. It is generally advisable to not have an ultrasound examination prior to 7 weeks as frequently the pregnancy sac may be too small to be visible on ultrasound at such an early gestational age.

Fetal Viability Scans are performed either by the transabdominal or transvaginal route. For a transabdominal scan early in pregnancy it is important to ensure that the bladder is full prior to the appointment.

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This ultrasound scan is very accurate but unfortunately it cannot diagnose 100% of congenital abnormalities. If the scan is complete, we would expect to pick up at lease 95% of cases of spina bifida, 80% of cases of cleft lip palate, and 60% to 70% of cases of congenital heart disease.

This scan can also identify 50% to 70% of cases of Down syndrome, but the First Trimester Screening (FTS) test is better for this. Because 30% to 50% of cases of Down syndrome appear normal on ultrasound, only an amniocentesis can give you this information for certain. It is also important to realise that ultrasound scans in pregnancy do not detect problems like cerebral palsy or autism.

Sometimes babies with chromosomal abnormalities have signs called ultrasound markers. These include thick skin in the neck, excess fluid in the kidneys, short arms or legs, white spots in the baby’s heart or abdomen, or choroid plexus cysts in the brain. While some babies with chromosomal abnormalities have these markers, it is important to remember that many normal babies also have these signs.

The only way to diagnose or exclude a chromosomal problem for certain is to have an amniocentesis. If you would prefer not to know about these markers please inform us prior to the scan. If the scan suggests a problem, you will be told this immediately. You will be able to discuss the findings immediately with a consultant who specialises in fetal medicine.

A full support service will be available for you should any problems be detected, including a referral to an appropriate paediatrician. A copy of your report will be sent to your referring hospital doctor or midwife to ensure good communication.

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