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By around eleven weeks, your baby officially becomes a foetus from an embryo. Distinct facial features and genitalia are developing in your baby, and the eleven-week scan gives an exciting preview to the way your baby is growing inside you. The scan performed at eleven weeks is also medically significant for ruling out any anomalies, syndromes, or malformations.
Purpose of the 11 Week Ultrasound Scan
The first-trimester pregnancy scan is always very special as it gives a glimpse of the developing baby. The week 11 scan gives you a sneak peek into how your baby looks, for the first time. It also is the earliest stage at which the doctor can pick up certain anomalies in the baby. The purpose of the week 11 scan is manifold. Here are some reasons why the 11-week scan should not be missed.
- During the 11-week scan, the foetus is screened for chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s syndrome. The results of the scan are evaluated along with the results of the blood test to arrive at a diagnosis.
- The position and size of the placenta are checked.
- The amount of amniotic fluid is assessed.
- The nuchal translucency (NT), measured as the translucent space in the tissue beneath the neck of the foetus, is used as a risk assessment factor for the syndrome. Nuchal translucency is also used as a guideline to rule out any congenital cardiac disease.
- Multiple pregnancies, if any, are clearly visible during this scan. Twins are usually visible at this stage as two clearly separate gestational sacs.
- General pregnancy health assessment is made.
- Gestational age of the baby is checked based on the growth of the foetus.
How to Prepare for Your 11 Week Scan
As the uterus is lying low in the abdomen, going with a full bladder can help in getting a better vision of the foetus. You can drink a few extra glasses of water and prepare yourself for the scan. However, some sonographers prefer a partially full bladder. Wearing comfortable and loose clothes that can easily expose the abdomen can facilitate the procedure.
How Long Does the 11 Week Ultrasound Take?
The first-trimester ultrasound at eleven weeks is usually a simple procedure that takes about a few minutes. An experienced sonographer measures the nuchal translucency quite easily. They also check for other vital growth parameters like crown-rump length, the diameter of the gestational sac, placental position and size, etc. The position of the foetus can delay the time taken for the scan. Sometimes the baby may be turned to one side or curled up, making the measurement of the tissue below the neck very difficult. Usually, the sonographer suggests repeating the scan after some time until the correct foetal position is available.
How is the 11 Week Ultrasound Scan Performed?
The week 11 scan is usually performed trans-abdominally. A cooling gel is applied to the lower abdomen, and the transducer device that sends ultrasound waves into your uterus is moved over the tummy to get a clear view of the foetus. The images of the baby are taken from the top and the sides to get a better view of all the internal and external organs.
What Can Be Seen in the Scan?
Many mothers are anxious about the 11-week ultrasound. Although it is a very crucial scan that rules out any abnormalities in the foetus, there is no need to panic. It is probably the first time you get to see your moving baby, so be prepared for a lot of excitement.
The baby at 11 weeks, looks more human with well-formed hands and limbs. Your baby’s head and bones are well developed at this stage. The body is still disproportionate with a large head and a comparatively small torso. You can catch your baby bouncing and kick in the watery amniotic sac. The baby’s genital organs are beginning to form in this week and may not be clearly visible in the scan. Your sonographer may not be able to conclude on the gender of the baby at this stage. The foetus at this stage is only an inch or two long but has a rapidly developing organ system.
What If Any Abnormalities Are Seen in the Scan?
If the 11-week foetus ultrasound indicates the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities, then you can talk to your doctor about the other confirmatory tests you can take. The NT values reflected in the scan are not conclusive evidence for a foetal abnormality. A blood test is performed to determine trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome) and trisomy 18 and to corroborate the findings from the scan. The doctor may also suggest an invasive procedure called amniocentesis to check for the DNA of the foetus. There is a slight risk of miscarriage and couples can decide to take it after discussing with their genetic counsellor or doctor.
To avoid the invasive procedure, you can wait for the anomaly scan at week 18-20, which can detect some mild indicators of abnormal growth. Based on all these indicators, the doctor or genetic counsellor will help you with the diagnosis and advise you about the course of action.
The week 11 NT scan is crucial in terms of identifying any congenital anomalies in the foetus. Although the scan result alone is not enough for a diagnosis, it definitely serves as a guideline for further tests.
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