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HerBaby: The 12-week scan

Bronwen Stead

Last month, we introduced a new series to HerCanberra in celebration of our editor Jessica Schumann and writer, Bronwen Stead, both expecting their first child later this year in October.

It’s definitely a first for HerCanberra and we know there are probably plenty of other first-time mothers out there too who are either expecting or just given birth. So in the spirit of sharing, we’ll be capturing our journey and sharing the ups and downs with you — our readers — in a regular ongoing series….

I confess, as outlined here our first scan wasn’t the nicest experience, and then when we had our follow up dating scan I was so relieved that all was ok, but it didn’t really connect for me that the blob on the screen was a baby. I mean – logically I knew it was, and also that it was inside me, but it all felt incredibly abstract. My first trimester knocked me about a bit, but I was really looking forward to my 12-week scan – it felt like a reward for getting through it!

When I called to book in for our scan the receptionist ran through the options for me – apparently this is the time that they can test for indicators of Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders. For most mums-to-be and in most cases, it is also the most expensive of ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy, unless you require specialist ultrasounds.

The options were:

  • a standard scan
  • a diagnostic scan that took some specific measurements
  • a diagnostic scan and a blood test (at an additional cost).

Feeling rather put on the spot, I elected to do the diagnostic scan and blood test. That night I discussed this with my husband Andrew and we agreed that it was the ideal way to go for us.

We both researched the tests a bit more (I swear Andrew knows so much more about pregnancy than I do). After looking into it I asked him what he would want to do if the tests did indicate a significant or elevated risk. It was a conversation that neither of us wanted to have and we decided we would leave it until after the tests, and try not to stress about it until we needed to.

Despite that niggling worry we were really excited for the 12 week scan – it felt like this would be the first time we would really see our baby. I know that’s not technically true but this time it would actually look like a baby! On the day, I had to empty my bladder then drink 600ml and hold it. Try telling someone with a small bladder they can’t go to the toilet! It is like telling a food lover she can’t eat the ricotta hotcakes – or soft cheese, or raw salmon sushi…anyhow, I digress.

By the time we arrived at our appointment my excitement was somewhat mixed with the desperate need to go.

We had a lovely smiling female technician who immediately made me feel comfortable. We signed some forms, I got on the bed and was covered in goo and TADAH! It’s a baby!!! And it LOOKS like a baby!!!! While the pictures are awesome, what I loved the most were the moments when the ultrasound would catch our baby moving – unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos or film which is a real shame as this was so incredible! And by all accounts we have a very squirmy baby!

The technician focused in on various body parts – while apparently not evident at this stage I still asked if she could see any indication of the gender which she quickly replied “no” to and moved on – I suspect maybe they are told not to even guess at this stage? While looking at the various body parts she took a range of measurements, including taking a look at the baby’s neck to measure the nuchal translucency, which is a pocket of fluid at the back of the baby’s neck.

Apparently if this is larger it indicates increased risk. Our technician told us all looked great which was reassuring. We also got to listen to the babies heart rate – which was super quick and again the realisation struck me – there is a whole other person inside me. I don’t think either Andrew or I could take our eyes away from the screen – I was in awe.

After I cleaned up we went for our blood test. This was a quick and painless (my nurses have been awesome) jab in the arm. Apparently it used to be a needle into your uterus and this test was associated with a higher risk of miscarriage, and this is a relatively new procedure.

Then came the waiting!

You aren’t given a print out of your image and they say it can take up to 24-hours to get the images loaded to your online account that you log into to see all your images. I swear, we were both logging in and hitting the refresh button every 15 minutes that day! Thankfully they were uploaded just before 5pm and we screen-captured the images and immediately sent on to family.

My doctor called me with my results the following week – the standard risk for a child with Down Syndrome for my age range was one in 300. Based on our results our calculated risk was one in 11,000. While I hadn’t been anticipating an elevated risk, this was very relieving news to receive. Every time I have a test and have to wait for results I try not to focus on it but it is definitely in the back of my mind.

Whenever the thought arises I remind myself to stay positive.

The scan was a definite highlight for me so far and put the experience into context in a way. Before my scan I knew there was a baby in there, but after this scan I felt reinvigorated; it excited me and made it real for me. It put the nausea, and the significant life changes and adjustments into context. We are eagerly counting down to our 20 week scan – when yes we will be finding out the gender!

Andrew (dad to be)

Leading up to the 12-week scan was exciting but I would by lying if I said there was no anxiety involved, it can be hard to ignore the ‘what ifs’ in relation to the Down Syndrome testing. For Bron and I, it was a no brainer to have all of the testing done and we were on the same page with this to begin with. For me it was all about having as much information as possible to make informed decisions. The scan itself was one of the most amazing things ever, to see this little human moving its limbs and know that Bron was growing the baby inside her and that we had made him/her together is just incredible. It’s difficult to find the words to describe what it is like, but it was definitely love at first sight, and awe at what Bron is doing!

In terms of the testing we had opted for the full test with the blood test as well. During the ultrasound the technician simply took some measurements and then walked across into Calvary for Bron to have her blood test at the ACT pathology located there. It was all very simple and straight forward, just like a normal blood test.

The 12-week scan is certainly one of those milestones that I won’t be forgetting and we have been counting down excitedly to the 20-week scan when we can see baby again!

Stay tuned for Jessica Schumann’s 12 and 20 week scan experience coming soon. 

Bronwen Stead

Bronwen loves to celebrate life and all things Canberra, which is why she is passionate about writing for HerCanberra and promoting the amazing people and activities that Canberra contains. She is a mother, wife and a creative with a passion for wellbeing and health.

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