As a dad, should you attend the 12-week pregnancy scan?

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

“Should I go to the 12-week scan?” It’s a question a lot of dads ask and one we believe we have the answer to here at Poddy Training.

The first 12 weeks of pregnancy is a strange time for dads. You’ve had the moment of discovering you’re going to be a dad, which for some is an incredible rush of emotions and for others it’s tough to get your head around. But then, after the initial excitement (or shock) has died down not a lot has really changed for you. The mum probably doesn’t have a bump, you’re not the one growing the baby inside you so there’s not that connection and the only evidence you have that you’re going to be a dad is what we like to call a positive ‘piss stick’ (and can you really trust a little plastic stick that you wee on? The answer by the way is yes, yes you can).

However, we should add here that the first ‘trimester’ (12 weeks of pregnancy) are often the hardest for mums. She may be experiencing morning sickness, like Lloyd’s wife Dannii did, and she’s probably going to be more tired than usual, as she’s busy growing not only the baby but the entire ‘system’ to continue growing the baby. So bear that in mind, and whilst nothing has changed for you make sure you’re helping her out where you can and supporting her whenever possible. Right, with that noted, back to the 12-week scan…

Your partner is pregnant, you’ve had the initial appointments with your GP and assigned midwife and now you have a date for the 12-week ultrasound scan. Great. But should you move heaven and earth to be there?

What can you expect from the scan itself?

The ultrasound appointment will likely take place at hospital, and quite possibly the hospital where the baby will be born. Once you arrive and are asked to take a seat, be prepared to hang around for a while, so pick up a magazine for the mum, pay her proper attention – just don’t let her sit there quietly while you scroll through Facebook! She’s probably nervous so this is where ‘supportive dad to be’ needs to make an appearance.

Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long, and once inside the room where the scan takes place the process will take around 20-30 minutes, assuming the baby is in the correct position and the sonographer can get all the information they need.

Mum will lie on the bed and you’ll probably sit next to her. She will need to lift her top to reveal her stomach, and possibly pull her bottoms down slightly, so being the knowledgeable dad you are make sure she dresses appropriately before you leave for the hospital. Hold her hand and get ready for a mind-blowing moment.

The sonographer will use the ultrasound machine to build a picture using high-frequency sound waves, and after putting some lubricating gel on the wonderfully named ‘foetal doppler’, they will move the device over the mums stomach and pelvic region (they don’t need to go inside her don’t worry) and a picture will appear on the screen…of your baby! This is the first time this little person has been seen by anyone, so take it in properly and appreciate the significance of the moment.

The image is a 2D black and white picture, but technology has come on so much that it’s no longer the fuzzy, difficult to interpret pictures of old. You’ll be amazed by the details you can already see at just 12-weeks; their face, fingers, toes – even their organs are formed by this stage. What this scan isn’t are the 3D scans you may have seen that show you a front on view of the baby’s face (which Jonathan finds quite scary). Those are private scans that you have to pay for, so do your research on these if you’d like one and don’t be disappointed that this is very much the traditional 2D, side-on image.

As well as seeing the baby, at the 12-week scan you’ll get the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and for Jonathan this was the moment he found most emotional. Hearing your tiny baby’s heart beating blood around it’s body (which is approximately the size of a plum at 12-weeks) is a moment you won’t ever forget – it’s the first audible communication you’ve had with your child, and if you’ve never experienced it before it’s simply incredible.

Another point worth noting…it might be that the mum is asked to drink lots and not go to the toilet until after the scan. Having a full bladder is helpful as it pushes the womb up and they can get a better picture, but it can cause some discomfort during the scan. But once you’re out of the room, mum can dash off to the toilet and relieve herself (imagine how good that will feel!)

Finally, you’ll be offered the chance to get a printout of the image. This differs from hospital to hospital – for example, Lloyd got his free (lucky him) while Jonathan had to pay, so prepare for the worst case and take some money, bank card or phone payment device with you. Whilst you might doubt whether you need the photo, if you have to pay for it, we’d definitely advise getting one because this will be a momentum you’ll want to cherish forever (and you can then take a snap of it and share it with everyone on WhatsApp!) Also a good tip with the photo – they are printed on thermal paper, so do not laminate them when you get home or you’ll lose the image!

What will you learn from the scan?

  • How many babies there are: It sounds crazy, but this might be the moment you discover you’re not just having one but two (or three or four) babies. This can be a shock for some people, but go in prepared for this possibility

  • Due date: because all foetuses are the same length at this stage (we never knew that either) the sonographer at the hospital will be able to give you the all-important due date. Bear in mind this is only around 3-5% accurate, but it’s nice to have that main milestone date to look forward to and plan towards.

  • Potential conditions: the sonographer can conduct additional scans and tests, which can alert you to any potential conditions or disabilities that you might want to know about. You’ll get a choice as to whether they do this, so have that conversation with your partner beforehand so you’re on the same page. You’ll get the results of these tests a few weeks later, but if there are any obvious issues at the time the sonographer may get someone else to come in for a second opinion, or they may ask you back for further scans. If you’re worried about this always seek professional advice via the NHS or your healthcare provider

An important thing to note is that you won’t find out the sex of the baby at this 12-week scan. You’ll have to wait until the 20-week scan for that, so don’t be disappointed when they can’t tell you that information.

Should you go?

Well firstly, our advice is always to support the mother of your child at every stage of this journey, and that includes the boring bits as well as the exciting moments. However, the 12-week scan is one of the most exciting moments of the entire process, so ultimately, our advice is crystal clear; if you can be there for the 12-week scan be there! Take the day off, plan work meetings or trips around it, do whatever you can do to make that date, because you don’t want to miss it. And whilst it’s not easy for everyone – perhaps you’re no longer with the mum, for example – hopefully you can communicate how important this is for you and convince them that you should be there for this moment. It’s also a good way to show how committed and serious you are about being a dad who is there for mum and baby.

In episode one of the Poddy Training podcast, Jon and Lloyd discuss the 12-week and 20-week scans in more detail, including what you can expect and their personal experiences. To listen to episode one now, or any of the season one episodes, click here.