What the Professionals say: Is ultrasound screening useful?

The midwife: It is a good tool if used properly if done by an experienced sonographer. It is now widely available, but is only as good as the person using it. Not everyone (doctors, midwives and patients) believe in the value of ultrasound screening. If you wish to have a scan, then that is your right-but you also have the right to refuse one. If you do refuse, be sure you know why you are refusing, often it may be because you are afraid of something, and if you ask you can have your fears rationalised. Remember that the scan is not always accurate, more often it is only a guide of risk. The Obstetrician: Ultrasound screening is a contentious issue. Is ultrasound safe? is it really useful? There is no consistent evidence that it is in any way harmful to the baby. This does not mean that it definitely isn''t, but many millions of babies have been born since scanning was introduced so any major problems would almost certainly have been picked up. If you have ultrasound screening, although many abnormalities can be successfully detected, not all of them are, so the test is not 100%. Furthermore, sometimes it isn''t possible to interpret a scan for various reasons, and this can cause great stress and anxiety for the expectant parents who automatically fear that something is wrong. Nonetheless, many women find it reassuring to have a scan done and when major abnormalities are detected, they may have the option of a termination. Anyone going for a scan should ask themselves ''what would I/we do if there was something wrong with my baby/pregnancy?'' so that they are prepared for the not altogethre rare occasions when all is not quite right. Remeber that about 3% of babies are born with ''something'' wrong, be it minor as in mild club foot, or major for example a cardiac defect.
What happens when I have ultrasound?

If you have ultrasound in the early weeks of pregnancy, you may be asked to drink plenty of fluid; an enlarged bladder makes it easier to scan for a tiny fetus. You will lie on a bed beside the machine and lift up your clothes - wear something loose. The procedure takes about 20 minutes.

The machine The screen shows an image of the fetus from which the necessary measurements are taken
The screen image The image is not always clear. The technician will point out the head, heart and limbs. This scan shows an 18-week fetus.
The scan operator Ultrsound may be done by a radiographer, an ultrasonographer, or a doctor or midwife

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