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Pregnancy Calculator

Our helpful pregnancy calculator will help you work out how far along you are, when your baby is due and the best time to have your scans.


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Nuchal Translucency Scan

This is often parents’ favourite scan – you will be amazed at just how much detail you can see and if everything looks normal, the risk of miscarriage and major abnormality becomes tiny, so it can be very reassuring.

 

If you haven’t had a scan yet, this scan will:

  • Make sure that the pregnancy is in the right place
  • Count how many babies there are!
  • Accurately date your pregnancy and decide on a definite due date for you
  • Look at the basic structure of the baby

But the main purpose of this particular scan is to screen for Down’s syndrome.

 

This is something that affects about 1 in 700 pregnancies overall, but it is more common if you are older. It happens because the baby has an extra copy of chromosome 21 in each of its cells and this causes a wide range of both physical disability and learning difficulties. At the moment there still isn't a completely safe test that will tell you that your baby definitely does or doesn't have Down's syndrome, but everybody is offered combined first trimester screening, which is a test performed at around 12 weeks that uses a combination of ultrasound scan findings and a basic blood test to assess the likelihood of whether your baby is or isn't affected.

 

The key ultrasound marker at this stage is the nuchal translucency measurement, or the fluid-filled space at the back of the baby's neck. At this stage in the baby's development it is normal for some fluid to build up at the back of the baby's neck - it happens to every baby so a little bit of fluid is entirely normal, but a baby with problems will often retain more fluid and the nuchal translucency measurement is increased. As well as being a good marker for baby's with Down's syndrome, an increased nuchal translucency measurement can also pick up Edwards' syndrome, where the baby has an extra copy of chromosome 18 and Patau's syndrome, which has an extra copy of chromosome 13, and some other structural problems, including heart abnormalities.

 

Most people will have a good result from their screening test and be reassured that they are at "low-risk", but a few will be identified as being at higher risk and may be offered the next level of testing, such as the new non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) or an amniocentesis. An amniocentesis will tell you for sure whether your baby does or doesn't have a chromosome abnormality, but unfortunately it carries a risk of miscarriage, so it is advisable to establish whether you are genuinely high-risk before considering this procedure.

 

The nuchal translucency scan is best done during the 12th week, but it can be done from 11 weeks and 3 days up until 14 weeks and your local NHS hospital will offer you an appointment to have this done at around this time. Nevertheless some parents may opt to have this done privately instead and reasons why patients choose to have it done at Beard Mill Clinic include:

 

Plenty of time

Each appointment at Beard Mill Cinic is allocated one hour to make sure that there is plenty of time to do the scan and discuss the results with you.

 

Extra markers

Dr Heath has spent over 20 years working with Professor Kypros Nicolaides who has been the leading pioneer in developing the Nuchal Translucency Scan and screening for abnormalities at this stage of pregnancy. During this time, she has been directly involved in developing the risk calculation software and in teaching other people how to perform the nuchal scan. In doing this, she has come to understand the screening process inside out and can use her expertise to give you the best possible advice. In particular, she is has been trained and certified to look at the additional markers for Down’s syndrome that are not routinely offered at most other scanning clinics.

 

These additional markers include:

  • Looking at the baby’s nose bone and it’s profile
  • Listening to the flow of blood across a valve in the baby’s heart (the tricuspid valve)
  • Measuring the resistance in the vessel that takes blood into the baby’s heart (the ductus venosus)

Babies with Down’s syndrome are more likely to have a small or absent nose bone, with a flat profile. They often have leakage across the tricuspid valve and reverse flow in the ductus venosus. So adding in these additional markers will take the average detection rate of the standard technique of 80% up to 95%.

 

Early blood tests

The blood test that is used to screen for Down’s syndrome is usually taken at the time of the Nuchal Translucency Scan, but the latest research suggests that the results are actually more accurate if the blood is taken at 9 weeks, rather than 12 weeks. So wherever possible, Dr Heath will try to arrange for you to have your blood test before your scan. This has the double advantage of giving you the best possible result and ensuring that the blood results are ready when you come for your scan, so that your risk can be discussed with you face-to-face, rather than given to you by letter a week or two later, or over the phone.

 

Of course this isn’t always possible to arrange, in which case, it can be done at the same time as the scan. But as an added incentive, Dr Heath will offer to do a quick scan if you come to Beard Mill Clinic early to have the bloods taken, allowing you to hear the heart beat and to check your dates. There is no additional charge for this.

 

Same day results

When the blood has been taken in advance of the scan, Dr Heath is able to process all the results straight away and explain both the scan findings and blood results to you, showing you how your measurements fall within the context of the “normal” range and how this then affects your own specific risk for Down’s syndrome. The risk calculation software used at Beard Mill Clinic displays simple graphs which really help you understand what the risk means and Dr Heath gives you plenty of time to ask questions and clarify anything you are not sure about. You then take away a comprehensive report with all the results clearly documented.

 

Even if the blood results are not available, Dr Heath will give you as much explanation as she can based on the scan findings and help you to understand how the blood results fit into the risk assessment. She is able to process blood samples within 24 hours, so will ring you the following day with the final result and then e-mail you your report.

 

Full explanation

Taking the measurements is the easy bit, interpreting the results and communicating these to the parents can sometimes be the more challenging part of screening. And this is where Dr Heath’s expertise comes into its own. Through her training, she has acquired a deep understanding of how the individual components of the screening tests work and endeavours to explain this as fully as she can.

 

She is passionate about providing each and every patient with the best possible standard of screening and then equipping them with the knowledge and understanding to use this information appropriately.

 

Some of the patients who contact Beard Mill Clinic about the Nuchal Translucency Scan do so because it hasn’t been possible to measure the nuchal when they went for their routine NHS appointment. This is often because the baby wasn’t in the right position, but Dr Heath has the luxury of much more time and has not yet failed to get a nuchal measurement. So if you find yourself in this position, do ring to make an appointment.

 

In most cases, patients will be reassured by their result, but if your risk of Down’s syndrome is high, or a problem is suspected, Dr Heath will arrange a direct referral to your own NHS consultant and ensure you receive the right follow-up.