Halfway through your pregnancy, you will experience one of my favorite parts of pregnancy: the anatomy scan. The anatomy scan is a level 2 ultrasound, which is typically performed between 18 and 22 weeks. Other than finding out the sex of your baby (if you want to know), the ultrasound technician will be taking many measurements of your baby.

Since the technician will be concentrating on the screen, they may or may not talk you through the examination. Don't be afraid to ask questions, though. I find that it's best to go in with an idea of what the technician will be looking for specifically and a written list of questions.

Brain

The technician will be assessing the fluid-filled spaces inside the brain and the shape of the cerebellum, which is in the back of the brain. He or she will also be able to identify if any cysts are in the choroid plexus, which is a tissue in the brain that produces cerebrospinal fluid. Fetal cysts may indicate an increased risk for a chromosome abnormality; however, the majority of these cysts disappear by the 28th week of pregnancy with no effect on the baby.

Face

Depending on the positioning of your baby, the technician may or may not be able to detect if your baby has a cleft lip. Rarely are they able to detect if there is a cleft of the palate. According to The Cleft Palate Foundation, clefts of the lip and palate are the fourth most common birth defect, affecting 1 out of every 600 newborns in the US.

Due to the number of oral health and medical problems associated with a cleft lip or palate, a team of doctors and other specialists will be involved in the care of your baby after birth. If it is determined that your baby does have a cleft lip during the ultrasound, it is helpful to research facilities that can provide the medical treatment your baby will need prior to birth.

Heart

Congenital Heart Defects are one of the leading causes of birth defects and infant death. A prenatal diagnosis can prepare you and your medical team to provide your infant with the best medical care possible throughout your pregnancy and after birth. Here are the important questions you will want to ask your technician:

  • Do you see four chambers?
  • Do you look at the arteries or outflow tracts as part of your scan?
  • Are the heart and stomach in correct positions? Both organs should lay on the left side of the fetus.
  • Is the heart rate normal? A normal heart rate range for a fetus is 120-180 beats per minute.
  • Is the heart function normal?
  • Does the muscle work normally?
  • Is everything hooked-up correctly?

Spine

Your baby's spine will be evaluated in the long view and in a cross section. The technician will be looking to make sure that the vertebrae are in alignment and that the skin covers the spine at the back.

Other Major Organs

The scan will also evaluate your baby's stomach, abdominal wall, and diaphragm. The scan will determine if your baby has two kidneys and if his or her bladder is functioning properly.

Mom's Anatomy

The technician will look at the positioning of your placenta, specifically looking for placenta previa. The umbilical cord will be checked to determine if it enters the abdomen normally and that it has three vessels. The technician will also look to see if there is enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby to allow it to move freely at this stage.

This may seem like a lot of scary information, but it is better to be informed and involved in the examination instead of completely unprepared. The anatomy scan really is an exciting examination, where you are able to get a close-up glimpse of your little one moving around. Enjoy the special moment!