The 12-week scan – A dad’s window on reality
Until the point of the first dating scan, a father-to-be may find himself in a world in which he knows there ‘s a pregnancy – it’s been confirmed and his partner is complaining of tiredness and morning sickness – but the baby…well the baby is merely an abstract concept.
Yet, with the 12-week dating scan all this begins to change. Seeing a baby on the screen – even if it is just a black-and-white ultrasound image of a somewhat alien-looking creature in a black cavern – suddenly offers a focal point for the reality that there is burgeoning life within your partner’s womb and that in less than thirty weeks you could be holding it in your arms.
So, what actually happens at a scan and is it important for dads/partners to attend?
There can be no doubt that the first scan (the exact date can be anywhere between eight and 14 weeks) is a significant milestone in the pregnancy. But even though it is a simple procedure and most pass without complication, it is likely that you and your partner will have some anxieties about the process.
You might, for example, find out that twins or even triplets are on the way (yes, just try to get your head around that one for a moment). But you might, although this is statistically unlikely, discover that there is some complication with the pregnancy, and this is why many parents worry about this first scan appointment.
Scans are usually carried out in a hospital using special equipment and trained staff. You’ll be taken to a dimly lit room (so that images are clear on the equipment’s screen) and the mum will be asked to lie on an examination bed. The sonographer will put some gel on the mother’s stomach and then run a handheld device over the womb area. This device sends ultrasound waves through her skin which bounce back to create an image on the screen.
There’ll be some measurements taken and calculations made. You’ll get a better idea about the due date, but the sonographer won’t be able to identify the sex of the baby yet – remember it’s about 8.7cm long and would sit snugly in the palm of your hand.
Your partner is likely to already know about the significance of nuchal translucency and why they check for placenta praevia, so if you don’t already know what these are by the date of the scan, try to look as if you do and then you can Google them later. These checks are really important, but it can sometimes be hard to grasp the nettle and make yourself connect with the biological stuff until you really believe you’re going to be a dad.
So, what is the dad’s job at this point? Well, many mums really want support at this time and, hopefully, the possibility of hearing your baby’s heartbeat pumping into the room will be enough to convince you that it’ll be a worthwhile experience.
It’s really good to bear in mind that anxieties are inevitable and will be playing on your partner’s psyche. So, while the baby might not be growing in your belly, you can still talk things through with your partner and ensure that you are physically, emotionally and psychologically “present” for her; these things form the basis of meaningful support.
Being engaged in this way from the early stages of pregnancy can really help cement your bond with your partner while giving sustenance to the early but formative stages of your parenting relationship – research shows that women who are supported in this way through their pregnancies have a lower chance of developing postnatal depression and anxiety.
And the best news? If the scan catches your baby during an active period of the day, you just might get to see it performing its in-utero gymnastics – your first sight of the boundless bundle of energy you are likely to be dealing with for the remainder of your life!
Whatever the outcomes of your ultrasound scan, 12 weeks is a watershed for many couples, and mums and dads alike may feel this is the first time they can actually start to plan properly. While it may still be a scary prospect for a first-time dad especially, knowing that a new life is growing can be a completely affirming experience.