Pregnancy is a joyous ride that most couples like to embark on. However, every journey comes with a few bumps and hurdles along the way. The anomaly scan is a crucial exploratory scan done between 18-23 weeks of gestation to check the growth and development of the fetus inside the womb.
The scan emphasizes checking each part of the fetal anatomy, especially focusing on the brain, face, spine, heart, bowel, kidneys, limbs, and stomach of the growing baby. The scan particularly checks delayed growth and development, outgrowths, or malformations if any, in the fetal anatomy.
If something seems amiss or there are any significant complications in the scan, the doctors further discuss them with the couple to ascertain further steps to be taken in the future.
In this Article
Why should one have an Anomaly Scan done?
The primary objective of the fetal anomaly scan or the mid-pregnancy scan is to check for prominent physical abnormalities in the growing fetus. While most babies grow normally, there is always a small chance for a prevailing abnormality to develop during the pregnancy term. An anomaly scan detects those complications and allows the would-be parents to be aware of the findings. Knowing about these structural abnormalities during the mid-pregnancy scan also allows the parents to seek counseling from a senior fetal medicine doctor.
The Anomaly scan is very accurate in detecting abnormalities in the growing fetus, but it is not 100% accurate. There can be times when the sonography might not detect any prominent issues in the fetus during the 20-weeks mark in the pregnancy.
However, conducting the anomaly scan during pregnancy allows the technician to look at the fetal anatomy and assess the growth rate.
How is the Anomaly Scan done?
The anomaly scan in pregnancy is done between 18-23 weeks of gestation. On an average, it is done during the 20-week mark of the pregnancy period.
The procedure of an anomaly scan is pretty much the same as a regular scan.
However, since the technician is particularly looking at each of the parts of the fetal anatomy, it can take more time, especially if the baby is super active inside the womb.
Here’s what happens when a pregnant woman enters the ultrasound/scan room:
- The technician asks the pregnant woman to lie on the scan room couch or the scanning table right beside the machine. You will need to lift your upper garment to the chest and lower the trousers or the lower half of the garment to the top of the limbs to expose the abdomen.
- A gel is applied to the abdominal region, and the technician or the doctor will use the ultrasound probe to look inside the womb and check the development of the fetus.
- The probe checks different parts of the fetal anatomy, including the heart, spine and brain. You will get to listen to the heartbeat of your baby.
- As the doctor moves the handheld probe across the abdomen, a black and white 2D image of the fetus appears on the screen. The procedure is done with a full bladder to allow a clearer image of the fetus.
- Based on the positioning of the fetus, the scan can take somewhere between 30-60 minutes. The doctor will navigate every part of the abdomen to check different parts of the baby’s growth and anatomy to ensure that it’s growth is right on track. It is also during this period that they check for structural abnormalities in the fetus.
Getting a clear view of the baby’s organs is often difficult and depends on the baby’s position. The bones appear stark white while the surrounding amniotic fluid comes up as black on the ultrasound screen.
What kind of measurements does the doctor take during the Anomaly Scan?
When checking for physical abnormalities in the scan, the doctor checks for multiple issues in the organ systems of the baby. Remember that the anomaly scan is only for detecting physical abnormalities in the baby. It doesn’t diagnose or detect behavioral or developmental issues in the fetus.
During the scan, the doctor takes note of the following measurements:
- Head circumference
- Abdominal circumference
- Femur or thigh bone length
- Humerus or arm bone length
The measurements of the fetus are then matched to the standard charts to check if the baby is growing at the right pace or not.
Following taking the measurements, the doctor checks the different parts of the fetus and checks the placement of the placenta.
Which diseases or disorders are diagnosed with an Anomaly Scan?
The Anomaly scan is highly beneficial in the early detection of many physical disorders in the fetus. Most of these disorders have a 50-90% chance of showing up on the scan.
Some of the most common abnormalities include:
|Name of the Condition||What is it?|
|Spina bifida||Improper or incomplete development of the baby’s spinal cord.|
|Anencephaly||Baby is born without parts of the brain and the skull, especially around the top.|
|Hydrocephalus||Accumulation of excess fluid inside the brain of the fetus.|
|Congenital heart defects||Developmental issues of the heart in the fetus.|
|Diaphragmatic hernia||Presence of hole in the diaphragm of the fetus.|
|Exomphalos or gastroschisis||Prominent defects in the abdominal wall of the fetus.|
|Renal complications||Issues with the kidney development or functions.|
|Limb abnormalities||Abnormalities in the shape, size, or formation of the limbs.|
|Down syndrome||Can be detected with heart or bowel complications. Not accurate in the scan 100% of the time.|
Not every problem with the fetus can be diagnosed with an anomaly scan. Some types of heart defects or developmental issues aren’t diagnosed until later in life.
What happens with positive findings on an Anomaly Scan?
The primary objective of doing an anomaly scan is to rule out possibilities of structural abnormalities and complications in the growing fetus during pregnancy.
If the doctor or the ultrasound technician finds something amiss during the scan, the parents are informed immediately. Depending on the complication during the scan, the doctor will proceed with further testing.
For example, if the doctor finds heart complications during the anomaly scan, they suggest getting a fetal echocardiography for better testing and accuracy.
Despite the news, the doctors and the medical staff support the soon-to-be parents throughout the journey. They are either referred to a specialist or even a counselor to better process the information. Then they may make any decisions accordingly (if it needs to be made).
Cost of an Anomaly Scan in India
The price of an Anomaly Scan in India typically costs between INR 2500 to INR 3500. The prices will vary depending on the state/city or the laboratory/hospital the patient is getting tested at.
Undergoing an anomaly scan is a must for every pregnant woman. Not just for safekeeping, it also helps in averting a lot of complications that could not have been avoided otherwise. Having an idea about the complications in the developing fetus also prepares the parents ahead of time to educate themselves with the right resources.