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A-Z Services - Maternity Ultrasound Service

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Important questions about my scan


What is an ultrasound scan?
An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves that cannot be heard by the human ear. The sound waves produce echoes and these are used to create an image of your baby.


Is ultrasound scanning safe?
Ultrasound has been used for 40 years to monitor pregnancies and so far there is no evidence that it has produced any harm to mother or baby. However, we think it is wise to scan only when there is a good reason and to use the minimum amount of sound waves. Our practice is in line with safety guidelines from the British Medical Ultrasound Society.


How do I prepare for my scan?

How do I get there?
The Centre for Women’s Health has a separate access from Barrack Road with some car parking. Alternatively you can go through the main Hospital. Follow the signs to Q link. For details of how to get to the main hospital see out 'getting here' page.


Can I bring anyone with me?

So that we can focus on you and your unborn baby it is helpful to have as few distractions as possible. If you have children, we suggest that you make arrangements for them to be looked after during the consultation. Occasionally we need to discuss a scan result in depth and this can be difficult if children are present.


What will happen at my appointment? 
Scans are carried out by specially trained doctors or sonographers. Exeter is a teaching hospital and some scans may be performed by a trainee under supervision.


Please inform staff if you do not wish a trainee or student to be present. The scan image will be best viewed in a room that is dimly lit. Scanning requires a lot of concentration, especially if your baby is active.


You will first be asked to lie on a couch and raise your top to your chest and lower your skirt or trousers to your hips. Tissue paper will be tucked around your clothing to protect it from the ultrasound gel. (The gel makes sure there is good contact between the machine and your skin.) The sonographer passes a hand-held device called a probe over your skin. It is this probe which sends out ultrasound waves and picks them up the echo when they bounce back. The sonographer will carefully examine your baby.


Having the scan does not hurt, but the sonographer may need to apply slight pressure to get the best views of the baby. A black and white picture of the baby will then be seen on the ultrasound screen. Most examination take about 20 minutes but occasionally you may be asked to wait longer to allow your baby to move into a more favourable position.

Can I have a picture?
Yes, you can have up to four pictures but we ask for a donation. Most people leave a donation of around £3 for each copy of picture.


Can I film the scan?
No sorry, photography or filming with a camera or phone is not allowed during medical examinations.