In the UK, women typically have two ultrasounds during pregnancy: one at 8 to 11 weeks, and another at around 20 weeks. In some cases, a woman may opt to have a private ultrasound scan earlier than the 8 to 11-week period. Whether to have an ultrasound this early is usually a matter of personal preference, and in some situations, there are good reasons for doing so. Early Fetal Ultrasound

The Timing of the First Ultrasound

The NHS offers pregnancy women their first ultrasound at 8 to 11 weeks for a good reason: prior to around the 7 week mark, it's hard for an ultrasound to detect a foetal heartbeat, and sometimes it can be hard to even detect the presence of the foetus at all. Prior to 5 or 6 weeks, an ultrasound is unlikely to detect any signs of pregnancy. At this stage, an ultrasound may detect an empty gestational sac, or may detect nothing at all. Occasionally a heartbeat can be detected at 6 weeks, but this is unreliable.

In short, the results of an ultrasound are highly unpredictable before the 8 week mark. Therefore, having an ultrasound too early can lead to falsely negative results that may cause a lot of heartbreak. To make sure that the first ultrasound is able to give accurate results, it's generally better to wait until at least week 8 of pregnancy.

However, there are some situations where a woman may want to have an ultrasound earlier than this, and where there are good medical reasons for doing so.

Why Have an Early Pregnancy Scan?

The most common reason to have an early ultrasound—meaning before the 8-week stage—is when a woman is experiencing symptoms that may indicate a problem such as an ectopic pregnancy. A common symptom of ectopic pregnancy is experiencing pain on one side of the belly, so this kind of pain may prompt an ultrasound to determine whether the pregnancy is ectopic, meaning it’s located outside of the uterus.

Women will typically have an early pregnancy scan if they have undergone fertility treatment, if they’ve previously had a miscarriage, or if they’re experiencing any other kind of unexplained pain or bleeding. In these cases, performing an early scan can pinpoint any issues that may compromise the health of the pregnancy.

Even if you don’t fall into one of these categories, you can opt to have an early pregnancy scan privately, if you wish. This can be a good option for your peace of mind, if you’re concerned for any reason, or if you just want confirmation of your pregnancy as soon as possible.

Early Pregnancy Scans at The Birth Company

For private pregnancy scans at virtually any stage of pregnancy, The Birth Company can offer next-day appointments with same-day results, so you never have to wait too long to know for certain! We’re open every day, to make it easier for you to get an appointment ASAP.