A pregnancy can be observed from as early as 6 weeks from the first day of your last period and not the date of conception. An early pregnancy scan which is sometimes also called a viability scan or dating scan provides reassurance in this very early stage of your pregnancy.
Early pregnancy scans are not frequently offered on the NHS but you may have one privately without disturbing your NHS entitlement. Sometimes it is requested by a doctor or midwife to check that your pregnancy is healthy- in this case it is often called a viability scan. It can also be performed to confirm the results of a pregnancy test or just to provide you with some reassurance that all is progressing as it should be.
What can you see at an early pregnancy scan?
Early pregnancy scans are available from 6 weeks. Your baby will develop really quickly within the early stages of your pregnancy and so your baby will look very different each week. At 6 weeks your baby will just be visible and measure around 0.5mm. This is the earliest a heartbeat will be detected. At 7 weeks your baby will be about 1cm with a heartbeat of about 160 beats per minute. At 8 weeks your baby is growing about 1mm a day, and will now measure around 1.6cm. You may be able to start to recognise the head and body. At 9 weeks your baby is nearly fully formed, and you may be able to make out your baby’s head, body and limbs. At 10 weeks your baby is now around 3.8cm and you ought to be able to see him or her bobbing about and making jerky movements. It’s completely natural to feel concerned at this early time in your pregnancy. The point of an early pregnancy scan is to try and relieve anxiety and not cause it. That is why where possible sonographers encourage women to try and wait until they think they’re at least 6 weeks so they can be more definitive about what they see.
Are there any risks to having an early pregnancy scan?
Ultrasound scans have been used in antenatal care for over 30 years and there is no evidence to suggest that they are harmful to you or the baby. When you are having your early pregnancy scan, you’ll go into the scanning room and you’ll be asked to take your items of clothing off and put a sheet of tissue over you. You will be asked to lie down on the bed. There will be a curtain around to keep your dignity and confidentiality. Then your sonographer will ask you to put your knees up and open your legs. They will have a good look with the probe and then turn the monitor to you and show you.