What to expect from your first pregnancy scan

That magical time is rolling around, your first pregnancy scan! The first time you will ever see your beautiful tiny little bean. One of the most precious exciting moments you will ever have throughout your life.

It is a complete mixture of emotions. I remember crying so hard at all scans with both my babies. I remember feeling so nervous, excited, happy, scared… a whole different ray of emotions running through me. They are moments I will treasure for my whole life.

What is the dating scan for?

This scan is to calculate how far along in your pregnancy you are and to determine an estimated due date for your baby’s arrival. This will not be the guaranteed date but will be a rough guide of when you can expect to go into labour.

This is referred to as a dating scan.

This will also show whether you are having more than one baby and to check that your baby is growing in the right place, the heartbeat is healthy and that the baby is developing the way they should be.

When will your first scan take place?

Usually, your first scan in pregnancy will take place somewhere between 12 weeks, then again at around 20 weeks. Sometimes you may have a first pregnancy scan as early as 6 weeks.

Why may you have an early scan at 6 weeks?

This only usually is the case if you have experienced bleeding or spotting early on in your pregnancy, even though this can be a common symptom, they offer an ultrasound just to rule out potential miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

This scan may also be carried out vaginally rather than on your belly. This is called a transvaginal scan. It is a more accurate way to check on your baby. But do not worry, it should not be too uncomfortable and is just to give you reassurance that your baby is doing well and everything is as it should be.

Where will the scan take place?

Your scan will usually take place in your local hospital, the person who will be doing your scan is called a sonographer.

How to you book your first pregnancy scan?

Usually, your midwife will book this appointment for you when you have an antenatal check-up with them. Sometime your doctor may book this appointment.

What health conditions can an ultrasound pick up at your first pregnancy scan?

Anencephaly – this is the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp that occurs during embryonic development.

Down syndrome – is a genetic disorder, which can cause physical growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual disability, and characteristic facial features. At the scan, this is referred to as a screening test and is completely optional.

Missing Limbs – your sonographer can see whether your baby has all their limbs, such as arms and legs.

If there are more health conditions with your baby they will most likely be detected at your later scan around 20 weeks.

What do you need to think about in preparation for your ultrasound?

Maternity notes – make sure you take your notes with you, this is vital so your sonographer can write down all the important information that your midwife or health visitor may need to see.

Comfortable loose clothing – your sonographer will require you to lower your trousers and lift your top to be able to give you an ultrasound so make sure your clothing is not to tight and can easily be adjusted.

Full bladder – having a full bladder will make it easier and visible for your sonographer to be able to check on your baby as your bladder will move from your pelvis into your abdomen. Do not sit there with a full bladder if it is causing pain though if you need to pee then just pee.

Parking fee – some hospitals do charge to park in their car parks so make sure you take enough change with you to do able to park and leave if you are travelling by car.

Ultrasound pictures – some hospitals do ask for a small donation to be able to get copies of your ultrasound. Be sure to take some money with you just-in-case.

What will happen at your first scan?

What you will feel

When you arrive at the hospital your sonographer will take you into a private room, they will likely ask you a couple of questions, for example, how you have been feeling so far throughout your pregnancy?

They will then ask you to lay down on a bed, lower your trousers slightly and to lift your top over your belly so they have easy access to do your ultrasound.

Your sonographer will then some paper towels into your trousers, this is just to prevent the ultrasound jelly from getting on your clothing.

They will place some of the ultrasound jelly (ECG gel) onto your stomach, this may feel a little bit cold. This gel is used to create a conductive bond between your belly and the ultrasound transducer, which is the device they use to scan your stomach with.

The device produces sound waves that bounce off of body tissues that creates echoes, the transducer receives the echoes and transmits them to a computer which will then use them to create a sonogram picture of your baby.

The transducers do come in different shapes and sizes.

Please note, this is the most common way of doing an ultrasound but in some cases you may have an internal ultrasound.

Once your sonographer has placed some ECG gel on your stomach, they may darken the room just so your sonographer can see your ultrasound more clearly. They will then begin to glide the transducer over your stomach, this will not be painful at all, it may feel slightly uncomfortable if you have a full bladder but the most you will feel is the coldness from the jelly.

What you will see

You will now see your baby pop up on the computer screen and hear their heartbeat, emotional right? This is the moment I burst into tears and sobbed my heart out with both my babies. Seeing and hearing them for the first time is seriously one of the most precious moments you will ever experience throughout your lifetime.

At this point in the pregnancy, they do tend to look like a little jelly bean so do not feel sad if you cannot work out what part of your baby is what. This is also the moment where you feel find out whether you will be having more than one baby.

Your sonographer will begin taking measurements of your baby from several different angles, this will help determine your estimated due date.

During this, they will also capture images for you to take home.

How long will it take?

This appointment will generally last 20-30 minutes, sometimes longer if you are having more than one baby.

Is it safe?

The ultrasound is also completely safe and will not cause any harm to you and your unborn baby.


Enjoy the moment, this is just the start of a magical journey for you and your baby. Soon your nausea and tiredness will hopefully pass, your bump will start showing, you will start feeling movements and at your next scan, your baby will be so much bigger and more visible.

Pregnancy has its ups and downs, it can be a complete emotional roller-coaster. But is one of the most incredible times of your life, it will soon fly by and before you know it, your little jelly bean will soon be in your arms.

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