Lovely daughter touching mother's pregnant belly. Happy little girl feeling baby at mother tummy and awaiting the birth of her little brother. Pregnant mother relaxing on sofa with her cute daughter.

The Detailed Anatomical Ultrasound (The Second Trimester Anatomical Scan or Detailed Scan)

Hooray you are almost halfway there!

By about the halfway mark in your pregnancy, there should be plans in place from your doctor to have your detailed anatomical ultrasound. This is the most thorough screening for the fetus, and it is offered between 18-22 weeks gestational age (the “age” of the fetus in weeks and days, ex. 19 weeks and 3 days). Ideally, we will see you around the 19th week. This ultrasound may be the one that you have heard the most about as this is an opportunity to see your little one’s face, and limbs, and even find out if it is a male or female fetus (only if you would like to know!).

Why is this ultrasound ordered for the pregnancy?

This ultrasound is an opportunity to evaluate the expected fetal development and anatomy. This is the ultrasound that interrogates and documents the fetal anatomy in detail for the physician or care provider. This includes the fetal brain, face, spine, heart, abdominal and pelvic soft tissue organs, and limbs. Although there are limitations to what ultrasound can visualize, this is an ultrasound that attempts to provide as much information for the doctor about the physical development and characteristics of the fetus as is possible. This is also an opportunity to evaluate the size of the fetus and compare that to what is expected at this stage. The evaluation of the uterus, placenta, and the amniotic fluid is also done at this time.

This is an extremely important ultrasound for the pregnancy and your healthcare provider.

What can you expect at your detailed anatomical ultrasound?

At this point you have likely already had at least one ultrasound earlier in the pregnancy, so you are familiar with the need to fill your bladder for the obstetrical appointment. We know that this is no fun, and we will do our best to see you in a timely manner so that you do not spend more time with a full bladder then is necessary.  The bladder is important for increasing the ability to visualize certain structures and a valuable tool during an obstetrical ultrasound. Thank you for your help!

Once the technologist calls you into the ultrasound room for your appointment, you will be asked to review a few details about the pregnancy so far, and any relevant medical history. You will be invited to lay down on the cushioned bed and asked if you would like to have the patient viewing monitor on so that you can see along with the technologist.

This ultrasound exam will likely take between 45-60 minutes to complete. There are a lot of things to document, and the technologist is working with a moving target! 😊 This should be a consideration when making plans about whether or not to bring children with you, and how much time you should allow yourself. This is a medical appointment.

Even though this is one of the longer ultrasounds, we do not need your bladder full for the whole exam. There will be an opportunity to use the washroom after the technologist has gotten the necessary images, and then complete the rest of the exam with an empty bladder.

During the ultrasound exam the technologist is not able to comment on “normal” or “abnormal,” but will be able to point out what they are looking at on your baby as they go. It can be helpful to understand these limitations before your exam so that you are not under any misapprehensions about what the technologist can or cannot say. The reason for this is that the doctor is the only one who is legally able to interpret the images and make diagnoses based on an ultrasound. We want you to feel engaged and communicated with during your scan, while meeting the standards of the highest quality in imaging and patient care, but we must abide by the professional dictates set forth in this field of medicine.

The technologist will work through the anatomy systematically and document images throughout. This usually results in somewhere between 80-100 images! Included in this protocol you will be able to appreciate things like the fetal face and profile (cute!), the fetal spine, the fetal limbs (including those adorable feet and toes!), and much more. Documenting these images are part of the exam. There is an opportunity for you to find out the predicted sex of your baby at this appointment. The genitalia will be imaged during this exam as part of the protocol. If you would like to know what the anatomy is, once the technologist has had an opportunity to document it accurately, they will happily share the information with you at the end of the exam. You can also request a “gender reveal” card to take with you after the appointment instead of finding out in the room. Conversely, if you do not wish to know what the anatomy reveals, that is no problem at all! The technologist will simply ask you to look away or turn off the screen when they are imaging the fetal genitalia.

At Beam we have integrated the highest standard of imaging into the detailed anatomical scan. This will provide the best information possible when assessing the fetal anatomy and development. We utilize the advanced experience of our technologists who have worked and trained in the maternal fetal medicine setting to bring a thorough protocol and exam to our patients. The technologist will systematically document the anatomy of the fetus, and the Beam physician will be able to interpret accordingly and provide a comprehensive report for your care provider.

Due to the nature of this exam, there are some situations in which the ultrasound may be limited in its ability to visualize the fetus properly. This can be due to many factors including fetal movement, fetal position, and variables that weaken the transmission of sound through the maternal body to reach the fetus. In this situation you may be asked to return for a repeat ultrasound in order to finish the protocol or to attempt better visualization. Our main goal is to provide the highest standard of imaging for your pregnancy and to ensure that the information provided is as full and complete as possible.

We will provide you with the highest standard of medical imaging, and we hope to also provide you with an opportunity to engage in your pregnancy care journey.

At the end of the ultrasound, the technologist will leave the room to write up the report and review the images with the physician (imaging doctor), this is a normal step.

Finally, you will be given a photo to take with you as a keepsake, free of charge.



This is the ‘Gender Reveal’ card that you will be provided with, if requested. 😊


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