Your health professional will probably suggest your partner has an ultrasound scan at 18-20 weeks. The 20-week scan checks that your baby is growing and developing as expected. It also checks for the location of the placenta.

What the 20-week scan is for

The 20-week scan can actually happen anywhere between 18 and 20 weeks. It shows what’s going on for your baby about halfway through the pregnancy. This scan is sometimes called a morphology scan.

This detailed ultrasound:

  • looks at your baby’s body parts including internal organs
  • checks the location of the placenta
  • picks up any obvious problems in your baby’s development or growth, like spina bifida, heart defects and limb defects.

If you want to find out the gender of your baby, this is the time to ask. Say what you want before the scan, so the sonographer can have a close look and tell you (or keep it secret). Keep in mind that gender identification in this scan is about 95% accurate.

What you can see at the 20-week scan

At the 20-week scan, you’ll probably see your baby’s heart beating, the curve of baby’s spine, baby’s face, and baby’s arms waving and legs kicking. There might even be some cute thumb-sucking.

Because you can see so much in this scan, you might have an even stronger sense of the baby or babies coming into your life.

Usually you can get an ultrasound photo or even a DVD to share with family and friends. Some services have 3D or even 4D ultrasound scanners, but these scans often cost extra.

Miscarriage or health problems at 20 weeks

It’s rare to lose a pregnancy after about 13 weeks. The overall risk of miscarriage after this time is only about 3%.

There’s a small chance that the scan might pick up a serious health problem or complication. Some abnormalities won’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 like amniocentesis. If you’re thinking about having these tests, genetic counselling services can give you more information about them.

Things you can do 

  • Decide with your partner on whether you want to find out your baby’s gender.
  • Ask your partner to make the 20-week scan appointment for a time and day that suits you too, if possible.
  • Well ahead of the day, ask your employer for appropriate time off work so you can go to the scan. Going to the ultrasound is one of the few chances you’ll get to see your baby before it’s born.
  • Read more about tests during pregnancy.

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Last updated or reviewed
13-10-2017

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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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