All pregnant women in England are offered an ultrasound scan at around 8 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. This is called the dating scan. It's used to see how far along in your pregnancy you are and check your baby's development.
Your midwife or doctor will book you a dating scan appointment. It will usually take place at your local hospital ultrasound department. The person performing the scan is called a sonographer.
You may need to have a full bladder for this scan, as this makes the ultrasound image clearer. You can ask your midwife or doctor before the scan if this is the case. The dating scan usually takes about 20 minutes.
Find out more about what happens during a pregnancy ultrasound scan.
If you're well, it's really important you go to all your appointments and scans for the health of you and your baby.
Hospitals and clinics are making sure it's safe for pregnant women to go to appointments.
If you get symptoms of coronavirus, or you're unwell with something other than coronavirus, speak to your midwife or maternity team. They will advise you what to do.
What is the purpose of the dating scan?
The purpose of the dating scan is to check:
- how many weeks pregnant you are and work out your due date (the estimated date of delivery, or EDD)
- whether you're expecting more than 1 baby
- that the baby is growing in the right place
- your baby's development
This scan can detect some health conditions, such as spina bifida.
Does screening for Down's syndrome happen at the dating scan?
This depends on whether you have agreed to have the screening and when the scan takes place. Screening for Down's syndrome will happen at the dating scan if:
- you have agreed to have screening for the condition
- the scan takes place between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy
The screening test for Down's syndrome used at this stage of pregnancy is called the "combined test". It involves a blood test and measuring the fluid at the back of the baby's neck (nuchal translucency) with an ultrasound scan. This is sometimes called a nuchal translucency scan.
The nuchal translucency measurement can be taken during the dating scan. If you have agreed to have screening for Down's syndrome, the dating scan and the screening will usually happen at the same time.
Find out more about the combined screening test for Down's syndrome.
You will not be offered the combined screening test if your dating scan happens after 14 weeks. Instead, you will be offered another blood test between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy to screen for your chance of having a baby with Down's syndrome. This test is not quite as accurate as the combined test.
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You can also read Screening tests for you and your baby, from Public Health England.