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Nine Months : Invasive test FAQs

Q. Does an ultrasound scan hurt?

An ultrasound scan does not hurt at all. As the scanner probe (transducer) is guided over your abdomen, you will only feel the cold plastic. Also, if the scan is being performed in early pregnancy, you will need to have a full bladder and this may cause some the usual discomfort of a full bladder.

Q. Can I say no to having a scan?

Yes, you can. You shouldn't feel forced into having a scan. Scans have been offered as routine for many years but if you feel that this is unnecessary interference and you don't need extra reassurance, you can decline. However, it is advisable to opt for an ultrasound scan, if advised by the doctor for a specific purpose.

Q. How early in my pregnancy will I have a scan?

An early scan may be offered as early as 8 to 12 weeks after your last period so as to date the pregnancy. You will also be given a routine scan at about 18-22 weeks to check the development of your baby's organs. However, the timimg of the scan may vary from hospital to hospital.

Q. When are further scans recommended?

Further scans may be recommended in the following instances:

  • It was not possible to see everything clearly because of the position of the baby in the first scan
  • he doctor suspects that there is a risk to the pregnancy
  • There is more than one baby
  • To determine the position of the placenta in the last six weeks of pregnancy

Q. Will an ultrasound scan harm my baby?

The most recent research indicates that ultrasound cannot harm your baby.

Q. Can I find out my baby's sex from an ultrasound scan?

If you are really keen to know the sex of your baby, you can always ask the ultrasound operator. Remember that it is not always possible to detect a baby's sex accurately, as the cord, closed legs, or moving limbs can contribute to a misreading.

Q. What happens if a defect is discovered in an ultrasound scan?

If a defect is discovered, you will probably be referred for more conclusive tests before any further discussions take place regarding the pregnancy.

Q. Is a Doppler scan safe?

A Doppler scan has been in use in medicine from many years and it has never caused any safety concerns. However, to be on the safe side, it is not used in very early pregnancy.

Q. What are genetic abnormalities?

Genetic abnormalities are those diseases that occur usually because of a defective gene that you or your partner is carrying, but do not necessarily know that you possess.

Q. What are genetic diseases?

Examples are :

  • Cystic fibrosis:a rare disease of the lungs and digestive systems that occurs in around 1 in 2,000 pregnancies.
  • Sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia: , common in certain ethnic groups.

    Babies suffering from these conditions are usually perfectly well in the womb and the illness only shows itself after birth.

  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Haemophilia

    Muscular dystrophy and haemophilia are sex-linked conditions that are carried by the mother and passed to male children.

Q. How can my baby have genetic disease if I don't have any?

The genes for some diseases are recessive, or hidden. If both parents have the same gene, the two sets of genes may match up in your baby, which means your baby will suffer from the full condition. Some genes are passed directly from one or other parent.

Q. What is Down's syndrome?

Down's syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in the cells of the developing baby. This is the result of a genetic accident occurring around the time of conception. The reason for this accident is not known but it is the most common chromosomal disorder.

Children with Down's syndrome have a learning disability and may have abnormalities such as a heart defect. They also have distinctive physical characteristics (small face and features; short and broad hands) shared by others with the condition.

Nine out of ten babies with Down's syndrome will survive their first year and a life span of 40-60 years is now common for people with the disorder.

Mothers-to-be in the UK are now being offered a 'one-stop' testing service (at around 11 weeks of pregnancy) on the NHS that will identify whether they are at high risk of having a Down's syndrome baby. Read more about this...

Q. What is Spina Bifida?

Spina bifida literally translates as 'split spine'. It is classified as a neural tube defect and this condition affects the development of the spinal cord during the very initial stages of the baby's development.

Babies with Spina Bifida have an opening in the bones of their spine that can result in damage to the nerves controlling the lower part of the body. This causes weakness and paralysis of the legs and sometimes, bowel and bladder problems. Babies with Spina Bifida are also more likely to have a collection of fluid on the brain, called hydrocephalus. This can be treated surgically but may lead to learning disabilities.

Q. What is triple test screening?

Performed between weeks 16 and 20, the triple test measures the levels of AFP, hCG and oestriol in the mother's blood and an individual risk factor for Down's syndrome is provided to the patient.

Q. What are invasive tests?

Invasive tests are special tests where small samples are taken from inside your womb. As the name suggests, the tests are performed by piercing your skin and your womb with a fine needle.

Q. What are the different types of invasive tests?

  • Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS):A sample of the placenta is taken.
  • Amniocentesis:This involves taking a sample of the amniotic fluid.
  • Cordocentesis:A sample of the baby's blood is taken from the umbilical cord.

Q. How safe are invasive tests?

Since invasive tests involve puncturing the womb, they carry a small risk to the baby. An expert hand will minimise these risks. One to two percent of women have miscarriage as a result of these techniques.

Q. Does the invasive test procedure hurt?

It may feel a little uncomfortable when the fine needle enters the womb. This is why you may be offered a local anaesthetic to numb the area around the needle.

Q. Why am I being offered this invasive test over that?

It all depends on the stage of your pregnancy. CVS can be performed after 11 weeks; amniocentesis is carried out between 14 and 26 weeks and cordocentesis from 18 to 24 weeks.

Q. Do I need special care after invasive test procedures?

You may be asked to avoid strenuous exercise for a day or two. You may feel drained, but unless you have a fever you need not worry. After a vaginal CVS, a small amount of vaginal bleeding is common. This blood should become dark brown and stop after a couple of days. If you bleed for longer than three days, or heavily with clots and pain, you should seek urgent
medical attention.

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