Seeing your baby (or babies!) for the first time can make the pregnancy feel real. The 12-week scan checks that baby is growing normally.

What the 12-week scan is for

The ultrasound called the 12-week scan can actually happen between 11 and 13 weeks. It:

  • checks that your baby is in the right place – that is, inside the womb
  • checks that your baby is developing normally
  • shows how many babies you’re expecting
  • helps health professionals work out the age and due date of your baby
  • checks your baby’s risk of having a condition like Down Syndrome, along with other tests.

If everything is OK, this scan is likely to be one of the most amazing moments of your life. It’s when you see your baby for the first time. You’ll hear baby’s heartbeat and might even see some hand-waving, acrobatics or kicks.

You won’t be able to find out the gender of your baby yet. You and your partner will have to wait until the 20-week scan – that is, if you want to know.

Every time you have a scan, you walk in there holding your breath and crossing fingers, toes, eyes and everything else. When they say that everything’s hunky-dory, you want to go out and buy lottery tickets.
– Callum, father of twins

Miscarriage or health problems at 12 weeks

Although most pregnancies are normal and go on without problems, there’s a chance the scan could show that your baby is no longer alive.

A miscarriage is when a baby dies before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage is common. Around 10-25% of pregnancies are miscarried, and 80% of them happen before 12 weeks. Miscarriage can be devastating. Along with grief and disappointment, you might feel helpless at not being able to save your baby or protect your partner.

There’s also a chance that the scan might pick up other fetal health problems or complications. If this is the case, your partner will need your support. As well as taking care of her, recognise your own feelings and talk with someone you trust.

If there are medical concerns, or you’ve had problems with a previous pregnancy, or if there’s too much uncertainty about the dates of the pregnancy, your doctor might ask for the first scan at an earlier date, or suggest extra scans or tests. Some abnormalities can’t be seen on a scan at all or can’t be seen until later in the pregnancy.

Genetic conditions like Down syndrome can be diagnosed only by special antenatal tests and checks such as CVS or amniocentesis. If you’re thinking about having these tests done, genetic counselling services can give you more information about them. 

Because of the first miscarriage, we went for an eight-week scan. There was real excitement, but it was really intense. I suppose it was more intense because we were just thinking, ’We hope you hang around’.
– Ted, father of one

Things you can do

  • Go to the 12-week scan. Ask your partner to make the appointment at a time and day that suits you too, if possible. Check with your employer ahead of time about what leave you can get to go to the appointment.
  • If the scan shows that something is wrong, support your partner. Recognise your own feelings too, and talk with someone you can trust.
  • Read more about tests during pregnancy.
  • Share your experience with other dads on our online forum for expectant dads.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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