This post is a response to a question from one of our readers who said she had read about the NHS making some errors in interpreting scan results.  She asked whether or not she should get a private scan at 20 weeks instead of the usual NHS one.

20 week scans are usually done by an Ultrasonographer who will have one years training plus one years supervision of practice. These Ultrasonographers often work for both the NHS and in Private clinics- so one point to note is that you could potentially pay to have someone perform your scan who is also performing them for free on the NHS.

If there are any queries which arise during your scan, you will always be referred to a Fetal Medicine Expert who has full medical qualifications and will have ten years training in Fetal Medicine.

If you chose to have a scan privately, it is interesting to note that there is not a big price difference if you ask to have a Fetal Medicine expert perform your scan, eg £200 instead of £150.  This could be a good option if you are particularly nervous as there may be potential for a better quality scan as the Fetal Medicine expert may have more experience in scanning and spotting abnormalities.

One important factor in the outcome of a 20 week scan is how the baby behaves.  Sometimes the position of the baby can make it difficult to study various parts of the anatomy and whilst the Ultrasonographer will make sure he or she gets a good view of the most important parts of the baby, something like a cleft palate can be missed if the bay has its mouth closed.

It is important that your expectations for a perfect scan are not too high.  Media coverage about “errors” made by the NHS is often misleading as there are some abnormalities that have a low rate of detection and some that cannot be detected by a scan.  The following attached pdf will help you to understand about the different types of congenital abnormality and how likely scanning is to identify each problem.

We hope that this information helps you to make your decision.


About The Author

Doctor and Daughter
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

Roger Marwood is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. He has 40 years experience working in busy NHS and Private hospitals and has personally supervised around 20,000 pregnancies. Rebecca Maberly is his eldest daughter who gave birth to her first child last year and is currently pregnant with her second. Together they have founded The Doctor and Daughter's Guide to Pregnancy which is a must-visit for prospective parents seeking a definitive source of realistic information, free from unqualified input from forums and comments. It enables mothers-to-be make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy, such as whether or not they should be drinking alcohol, running a marathon or eating smoked salmon. Their approach is no-nonsense and practical. The advice is medical and evidence-based, straight from Roger but with an informal slant provided by Rebecca. “There is so much conflicting information out there for the new mum-to-be, it can be very frustrating. We want to provide realistic, honest advice to busy modern women who want the best for their babies.”

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