“Scanxiety”: Why pregnant women are opting for more baby scans.

Last time I was pregnant, I was living in the UK and my ultrasounds were free under the NHS.

I was curious as to what was going on inside me but I can only remember having two scans.

A few years on, I’m living in Australia. I am 23 weeks pregnant and I have already had four scans and spent a lot of money on them.

I haven’t requested any extras but I’d had a couple even before I’d reached 12 weeks. It felt a bit strange; in my early scans my baby didn’t quite look like a baby yet and it made me stress more.

This bouncing baby boy looks great now. Image supplied.

But some mums-to-be are desperate to take a sneak peek at their unborn babies because of worry it's been coined "scanxiety".

In the UK, women paying for extra private scans are on the rise, according to The Guardian. The NHS offers free scans at 12 and 20 weeks but a study of 2,000 women showed that women were opting for more either via private or offerings like 3D and 4D scans.

Rose, a sonographer who works for a private ultrasound studio Fetal Fotos in Adelaide, says people get scans for a variety of reasons.


"Some people are anxious and just want to make sure everything is all right," she told Mamamia.

"Some people are scrap-bookers and they want lots of pictures to document the pregnancy and some people just want a few photos of the baby as a pregnancy souvenir," she added.

"Some people have problems with their baby just want to see what it looks like."

3D scans are next level. Image via iSTock.

The obstetric sonographer, who says she has dealt with anxious pregnant women for 40 years, says getting extra scans "definitely" helps with women's pregnancy worries.

"I had a lady yesterday that said when she saw her baby in her medical scan she thought it didn't look normal," she said.

"They don't understand that when sonographers are scanning a baby in a medical scan they're not looking to show parents what the baby looks like."

Rose says routine pregnancy ultrasounds and medical scans are not catering for women's concerns.

"They are not concentrating on a mother's anxiety because that's not what they are there to do," says Rose.

"They have a limited amount of time to do certain measurements and see the anatomy - so they're dealing on a completely different level than we are dealing with," she added.

"When they come to see me, I am happy to do what they want."

Listen: What to pack in your hospital bag (post continues below)

The Adelaide private ultrasound studio doesn't require a referral from a doctor.

"I'd recommend it. A lot of people worry if they have been told that their baby is breach and they worry for the next month that their baby is not in the right position," said Rose.

"It takes us two seconds for us to tell them that the head is down if the head's down...Women are worrying for nothing."

However, some agencies in the UK have warned against "possible risks of going for non-essential scans".

But Rose says there's been no harmful effects shown from ultrasounds and says it's a good way for women to have some reassurance about their pregnancy.


Sydney based Fertility Specialist Dr Sonya Jessup says: "The risk to patients having repeated scans is very very low, and in very anxious patients , sometimes a quick scan is the best option for alleviating stress which is helpful in so many other ways."

But Midwifery lecturer Allison Cummins, from the Australian College of Midwives, says extra scans are "unnecessary and expensive".

Dr Cummins says there is good evidence for getting a 12-week scan and 20-week scans and if there is a detected problem with growth then it's a good idea to check the baby's growth later in pregnancy.

"For women who are healthy, well women having a normal pregnancy there's no reason to have any more scans than the 12-week and the 20-week and even those are up to the woman," she said.

The midwifery lecturer says developing a relationship of trust with a midwife and continuity of care can alleviate pregnancy anxieties. (Post continues after gallery.)

"Not all of these sonographers [in privately practising ultrasound places] are trained in obstetric ultrasound. Women may be not be going to sonographers who actually know what they are looking for," said Dr Cummins.

Dr Cummins says midwives can't fix everything but they can support women and help work through their fears.

UK mum, Lauren McGlynn, told The Guardian anxiety was the main reason she paid for an extra private scan.

“Before my first son, I had two miscarriages,” she says.

“I just couldn’t deal with waiting until 12 weeks. I had a private scan at seven weeks, which is the earliest they will let you do it.”

In my case, it's been more stressful to have an early glimpse. I am happy to wait for the finished package but sometimes it does feel like I really can't wait.


More articles