Scans and screening in the first trimester: for dads

Scans and screening in the first trimester: for dads

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First trimester pregnancy scan

Your partner will be offered her first ultrasound scan at 6-12 weeks of pregnancy. This scan:

  • checks that your baby is growing in the right place - that is, inside the womb
  • checks that your baby is developing as expected
  • shows how many babies are present
  • helps health professionals work out your baby's age and estimated due date
  • is part of the check on your baby's chance of having a condition like Down Syndrome.

If everything is OK, this scan is likely to be one of the most amazing moments of your life. It's when you see your baby for the first time. You'll hear baby's heartbeat and might even see some hand-waving, acrobatics or kicks.

You won't be able to find out the gender of your baby yet. You and your partner will usually have to wait until the 20-week scan - that is, if you want to know.

Every time you have a scan, you walk in there holding your breath and crossing fingers, toes, eyes and everything else. When they say that everything's hunky-dory, you want to go out and buy lottery tickets.
- Callum, father of twins

First trimester screening tests

In the first trimester your health professional will talk with you and your partner about screening tests for chromosomal abnormalities and other conditions.

Screening tests work out the chance of your baby having certain chromosomal abnormalities or other conditions. The results will say that your baby has a high chance or that your baby has a low chance of having certain conditions. Screening tests don't pick up all chromosomal abnormalities and don't tell you whether your baby is definitely affected.

First trimester screening tests include:

  • non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) - NIPT involves a simple blood test
  • combined first trimester screening (CFTS) - CFTS combines a blood test from your partner with a measurement from an ultrasound scan done at 11-13 weeks.

Conditions like Down syndrome can be diagnosed only with special antenatal tests like CVS or amniocentesis. If you're thinking about having these tests, genetic counselling services can give you more information about them.

Miscarriage or health problems at 12 weeks

Although most pregnancies are straightforward and progress without problems, there's a chance the scan could show that your baby is no longer alive.

A miscarriage is when a baby dies before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage is common. Around 10-25% of pregnancies are miscarried, and 80% of miscarriages happen before 12 weeks. Miscarriage can be devastating. Along with grief and disappointment, you might feel helpless at not being able to protect your partner or your baby.

There's also a chance that the scan might pick up other health problems or complications. If this is the case, your partner will need your support. As well as taking care of her, recognise your own feelings and talk with someone you trust.

If there are medical concerns, or you've had problems with a previous pregnancy, or if there's too much uncertainty about the dates of the pregnancy, your doctor might suggest extra scans or tests. Some conditions can't be seen on a scan at all or can't be seen until later in the pregnancy.

Because of the first miscarriage, we went for an eight-week scan. There was real excitement, but it was really intense. I suppose it was more intense because we were just thinking, 'We hope you hang around'.
- Ted, father of one

Things you can do

  • Go to the first scan. Ask your partner to make the appointment at a time and day that suits you too, if possible. Check with your employer ahead of time about what leave you can get to go to the appointment.
  • If the scan shows that something isn't as expected, support your partner. Recognise your own feelings too, and talk with someone you can trust.
  • Read more about tests during pregnancy.