You may feel like one by the end of the pregnancy but just be grateful you’re not an ELEPHANT! Their pregnancies last for one and a half years – 640 to 660 days, roughly 95 weeks!! By contrast a human pregnancy last for just 40 weeks, although it often feels longer.
During the 280 days of your pregnancy, you'll be offered a range of tests as well as routine ultrasound baby scans. They include urine, blood pressure and blood tests as well as screening for infectious diseases and gestational diabetes and are designed to help make your pregnancy safer and assess the development and wellbeing of both you and your baby. You don't have to have any of the tests – it's your choice and you can discuss this with your maternity team.
You will also be weighed at your booking appointment with your height and weight used to calculate your body mass index (BMI) but you won't be weighed regularly during your pregnancy. Most women put on 10 to 12.5kg in pregnancy, usually halfway through with both the increasing baby weight and the body storing fat for making breast milk after birth.
Pregnant women are offered an ultrasound scan usually at a local hospital at between 8-14 weeks. Known as a dating scan and with no side effects for mum-to-be or baby, it is used to see how far along in the pregnancy you are and to check the baby’s development.
Some midwives or doctors prefer to scan women with a full bladder which can make the ultrasound image clearer with the actual scan talking about 20 minutes. For many, an ultrasound scan which uses sound waves to build a picture of the baby in the womb, are a highlight of the pregnancy. It’s so exciting to see your baby for the first time, often moving hands or legs or with a thumb in their mouth! Sometimes the images can be disappointing though, if the baby is lying in an awkward position and the sonographer can’t get a good view. The ultrasound gel on the tummy allows for a good contact between the machine and skin with the probe then sending out the ultrasound waves, picking them up when they bounce back and creating the black and white image you will see on the screen.
The second scan offered to all pregnant women is called the anomaly scan or mid-pregnancy scan and usually takes place between 18 and 21 weeks and checks for any abnormalities in the baby. This scan looks in detail at the baby’s bones, heart, brain, spinal chord, face, kidneys and abdomen and in most cases show the baby is growing normally and there are no problems. The scan is carried out in exactly the same way as the 12 week scan but produces a 2D black and white image which gives only a side view of the baby. The routine NHS screening programme does not use 3-D or colour images.
Numerous private pregnancy scanning clinics offer an extensive range of scans including gender scans and the ultimate 4D scan. Gender scans can only be carried out from 16 weeks and as a 2D scan as it gives the sonographer the most accurate view of baby’s “bits” ! If the baby is not in the correct position it’s not possible to accurately assess the gender and you may have to go back at a later date. The pregnancy scanning packages all include glossy images of the baby which are fantastic mementos of an exciting day.
You may also have the option to hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time at your dating scan and many clinics now offer their clients Baby Heartbeat Bears in which the sound of the heart or pulse beat is captured inside a recorder and placed inside a teddy bear or animal.
You can always purchase your own heartbeat bear or sound recorder and take it along to your scan either with a midwife using a Doppler machine or a private or NHS sonographer during a routine scan and ask them to record the heartbeat for you or allow you to do it. You can always record it on your phone and transfer to a sound recorder at a later date.
My Heartbeat Bear also offers amazing customised teddy t-shirts allowing you to have your baby scan printed onto your own teddy t-shirt for that extra special gift. A heartbeat bear is a wonderful keepsake for before and after baby’s arrival and may help you through those long 40 weeks of pregnancy as well as soothing baby during the long sleepless nights to come !
* 4D Scan image kindly provided by Ultrasound Diagnostic Centre