The 16 Week Ultrasound: What To Expect

At 16 weeks your baby might be tiny, but you are approaching the halfway mark!
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You are now 16 weeks pregnant and into your second trimester, you may have announced your pregnancy by now and even have a bump on show!

Generally speaking during a standard pregnancy you will be offered two scans, one between eight and 14 weeks to confirm a heartbeat, and another between 18 and 20 weeks. A 16 week ultrasound isn't always offered but sometimes your doctor will ask you to come in so they can run some extra prenatal tests, this isn't usually something to worry about, and bonus, you get an extra glimpse of your growing baby!

We have outlined what to expect before, during, and after your ultrasound, this will hopefully put your mind at ease and help you to feel more prepared on the day.

If you would like to read more about your progressing pregnancy, check out our other prenatal articles about being [31 weeks pregnant head down] and [32 weeks pregnant].

Before Your 16 Week Ultrasound

How are you feeling at 16 weeks pregnant? The second trimester is often considered the best of the three, as hopefully, any early pregnancy symptoms will have subsided, you might have more energy and even be lucky enough to get a lovely pregnancy glow!

Although it is still quite early on in your pregnancy, around your fourth month you might start feeling your baby move! This can feel a little freaky at first, but it really brings it home that you are growing a tiny human in there. Your baby is only around four inches long at the moment, roughly the size of an apple, but they can already kick their little legs out. Their muscles and bones are already taking shape along with the nervous system. The placenta is also growing, and working hard to provide everything your baby needs through the umbilical cord.

As mentioned above, 16 week ultrasounds are not always offered as standard, but try not to worry. This is easier said than done but often your doctor will simply want to check everything is progressing as it should and determine if there are any abnormalities. If you have had a complex pregnancy before, or have certain risk factors, they are simply keeping a closer eye which is definitely a good thing. Also, you'll get to see your baby again at this anatomy scan, and even get some more images to keep.

You don't need to do anything specific for your ultrasound to prepare. Make sure you arrive at your appointment in plenty of time but that's it! Just you, your paperwork, and your bump are all you need.

At week 16 your belly will be growing pretty fast.

During The 16 Week Ultrasound

This ultrasound will be carried out the same way as your first. The sonographer will apply ultrasound gel to your belly, then take a small probe called a transducer to press down and pick up the images of your 16 week fetus that you see on the screen. This is a non-invasive procedure but it can feel a little uncomfortable if the sonographer needs to push down a bit harder at some points to get a better view. You might be asked to change position so all angles of the baby can be seen.  

Extra screenings are scheduled for a variety of reasons. If this is a high-risk pregnancy due to certain conditions you might be being more closely monitored, likewise if this is a multiples pregnancy. A 16 week ultrasound of twins will allow your doctors to keep a closer eye on both developing babies and make sure they are progressing well. Any complications you might be experiencing can also be discussed at this scan.

The sonographer may also wish to measure the baby. These fetal measurements can sometimes provide a more accurate due date than the one you were given at your first ultrasound. You will also be able to listen to your baby's heartbeat which is always an amazing experience, and it's likely that you might even see them move on the screen too.

Your baby at 16 weeks will be very tiny, but looking much more like a real baby now with tiny arms, legs, fingers, and toes! Depending on your baby's position, the sonographer might be able to let you know the sex of your baby if you are keen to find out. 16 week ultrasound gender accuracy is not always guaranteed, and a more accurate gender prediction can usually be made at a later scan.

At this ultrasound, your doctor will also be checking for any potential abnormalities in your baby's development. This sounds a little scary but it is important to gather as much information as possible so that you can be best prepared for any outcome. A lot can be checked for through ultrasound images, by looking at movements and taking measurements of the baby, but your doctor may also wish to run a type of blood test, called a 'quad screen'. Other factors also contribute to the results of the blood test, and age, weight, and ethnicity are all taken into account.

Some of the reasons you may be offered this type of test are, if you are age 35 or older, if you have type 1 diabetes, and if you have a family history of developmental irregularities. Some of the things that can be observed from this test are conditions such as Down syndrome, chromosomal issues, and neural tube problems.

If the test results do determine a potential irregularity in development, you'll be offered more diagnostic testing to gather more information. Certain procedures like Amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling are more invasive and do carry a small risk of miscarriage, as both involve taking samples from inside the uterus.  Often, your doctor will try to find out everything they can using non-invasive prenatal tests, like further ultrasounds.  It is also important to remember that tests like these are optional, and you don't have to agree to them just because your doctor has suggested it. It is really important to do your own research and make the right decision for you and your family, many pregnant women do choose to opt-out of further testing and this won't affect the rest of your prenatal care.

Hopefully, any extra tests would come back with zero abnormalities, and your pregnancy can continue as it was. All being well, your risk of miscarriage after the 16 week scan is actually as low as 0.5%. If you do get some news you weren't expecting at this scan, there is lots of support available and your sonographer will be able to advise you about what your next steps should be. If you were to have further tests and find out your baby has a higher percentage of being born with some kind of condition, it is important to remember that babies born with chromosomal differences can go on to have extremely happy and fulfilling lives, so it is worth doing as much research as possible.

A scan at 16 weeks pregnant can sometimes determine the sex of the baby.

After The 16 Week Ultrasound

All being well after this ultrasound, you will be able to go home and prepare for the rest of your pregnancy.  At 16 weeks, you are 4 months pregnant so you are almost halfway through. You will start feeling more and more movement from your baby, and as they grow those kicks get bigger too, you might even see a tiny foot pressing up against your belly from the inside! If you were given any images to keep of your week 16 scan you might want to add them to your file, or pop them up on the fridge so you can see your growing baby all the time. 16 weeks pregnant is a great time to prepare for the arrival of your baby, especially if you are lucky enough to be enjoying a burst of energy now. In a few weeks when you have a much larger belly, you might not be so keen to organize baby clothes or paint the baby's nursery!

If you enjoyed reading about week 16, why not take a look at our other articles about later on in your pregnancy, all about the [36 week ultrasound], or why you get [period pains in your 37th week].

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