In the UK, the NHS will usually offer you an early scan at 6 weeks if you have a history of pregnancy loss, if you are in pain or bleeding or if you have had any fertility treatments. I had an early scan at 6 weeks due to my previous ectopic pregnancy, so I thought I would share my experience at an early pregnancy scan and what you can expect from it if you are waiting for an early scan.
My early scan at 6 weeks pregnant was filled with doubt and anxiety; after having gone through an ectopic pregnancy only a couple of months previously, I wasn’t very hopeful about this pregnancy being viable. The pain of going through a pregnancy loss was still raw and I had to prepare myself for the worst for my own sake, really. However, I still secretly believed that I could be carrying a lovely little baby, so that kept me going for 3 weeks – from when we found out we were pregnant until the day of the scan.
We drove to the hospital, not saying much to each other, but every so often one of us would start, ‘what if…’, and the other would quickly reply, ‘don’t go there. we’ll soon know’. After checking in at the very familiar Early Pregnancy Unit reception, we were taken to the also very familiar waiting area, a place where we were once told that our first pregnancy had come to an end.
I sat there drinking my 3rd pint of water so I had a full bladder, which is meant to help push some organs out of the way. I watched all the pregnant women and their partners, analysed their behaviour and envied their growing baby bumps, wishing I was them; at least I would know I was carrying a baby. Some women didn’t have a visible bump, and I wondered if their minds were whizzing just as much as mine at that moment.
It wasn’t long before my name was called, so we made our way down the hall and into the examination room. And there was the same sonographer, in the same room I had been in several times before with my ectopic pregnancy, which quickly brought my emotions back down to reality.
The room was dimly lit, I took my place on the examination bed, whilst my husband sat down next to me watching the blank monitor. After a few identity checks, I lifted my top and the sonographer applied the cold gel to my belly before starting the scan.
I thought that was odd, because according to my research, at 6 weeks, a vaginal scan is required because the womb is still deep into the pelvis, so I asked why they were performing a superficial scan and they told me they would try to detect a pregnancy like this before moving on to a vaginal scan. I felt a bit annoyed that this would potentially drag my anxiety even further if they weren’t able to find an embryo straight away. Never mind.
As soon as she started pressing the probe onto my belly, I remembered how heavy-handed she was from our previous encounter, and this time was no exception. I had a very full bladder and I had been experiencing some lower back pain for the last couple of days, so I had to keep my discomfort to myself as I didn’t want anything to delay this scan any longer, but my husband could see my not-so-happy facial expressions.
We sat there in silence for what felt like an eternity, but it was probably more like 2 or 3 minutes. When the heavy-handed sonographer was happy with her findings she finally turned the screen towards us and said, ‘this is your uterus and that tiny little white dot there is your baby – congratulations!’.
There was a pregnancy. In the right place. Phew!
A weight lifted off my shoulders and I suddenly realised how badly I needed the toilet! But I was in such a bubble of happiness and relief. For a moment, at least. Then, my usual over-analytical mind went back to consider everything else that could still go wrong, so I curbed my enthusiasm, but with a much more positive approach to this pregnancy.
It wasn’t another ectopic pregnancy. That was a fact!
We asked for some scan pictures so we could share our news with our parents and siblings and I remember thinking, how can such a tiny dot grow to become a baby in less than 9 months?
We left the examination room, walking past the waiting room, but this time I saw the same pregnant women with different eyes. I silently prayed and hoped they were all ok, and instead of envying their baby bumps, I felt part of the club because I had a baby growing inside me!
On our way out, we stopped at reception to book our next scan – the dating scan at 12 weeks pregnant. We plotted the date down in our calendar and walked back to the car, still finding it hard to believe I was really growing a baby!
That same day we drove down to South Wales to tell my husband’s family the good news in person. It was then that I realised that I was feeling a bit nauseous. I kind of smiled to myself and thought – yeah, I’m definitely pregnant. Bring it on! Little did I know that nausea (+ sickness) would last another 5 months, making me almost invisible during my 1st trimester and pretty awful for most of my 2nd trimester. But that’s a whole other story!
I consider myself very lucky to have conceived so soon after my ectopic pregnancy, and now I am very blessed to have my little rainbow baby. During my pregnancy, the thought of being able to see my baby on the next scan, really kept me going and kept me excited. In addition to the 12 weeks dating scan and 20 weeks anomaly scan, I also had a 16 weeks gender scan at BabyBond Ultrasound Direct and a 36 weeks growth scan, which ended up with me being induced at 37 weeks due to my baby looking small for his gestational age.
There is an abundance of content online with lists and bullet points on what to expect from pregnancy scans, some of which I have linked below for your research pleasure, but I wanted this to be about my experience going through it personally, and hopefully this can give you an insight into what pregnancy scans feel like in real life.
What to expect from an early scan at 6 weeks pregnant