The riser of baby ‘scanxiety’

REASSURING?: An increasing number of parents-to-be are paying for private scans.
REASSURING?: An increasing number of parents-to-be are paying for private scans.
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A new survey reveals almost a third of parents-to-be are paying for extra scans. Many parents-to-be aren’t satisfied with just the standard two NHS scans usually carried out at 12 and 20 weeks, and they’re paying to have more – sometimes a lot more.

Are multiple scans doing more harm than good?

Research by parenting site ChannelMum.com suggests almost a third of pregnant women pay for private scans as well as having the routine NHS ultrasounds, and while 20 per cent of those who have extra scans fork out for two, 18 per cent pay for at least three, and one in 50 have nine or 10 extra scans.

As well as the expense – private scans can cost anything from £35 to £1,000 for a package, with women who have them spending an extra £217 on average – the trend has raised fears that too many high-intensity scans may actually pose a threat to the foetus. While the recommended amount of scans is completely safe, some experts say it’s unclear what the effect of prolonged and frequent scans may be on unborn babies, particularly if the sonographer is untrained.

ChannelMum says some clinics offer scans of longer than 30 minutes, against medical advice, while others use unregistered sonographers who are unable to provide diagnoses or support if a problem is detected.

Mervi Jokinen, practice and standards advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), points out that the National Institute For Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises that pregnant women have an early scan, and then a screening scan for anomalies at around 18-20 weeks – and the advice takes into account all the known potential harms and benefits of the procedure.

“Any further scans beyond these recommendations should be clinically indicated and based on the needs of the women and her developing baby,” she stresses.

ChannelMum founder Siobhan Freegard, says: “Having a scan can be a wonderful way to bond with your baby and provide reassurance when you’re worried.

“But we need to remember it’s a medical procedure and should be treated very seriously. Clinics which allow multiple repeat scans without a medical reason could be risking the baby’s health.”

The research found more than a third of mums who’ve had extra scans did so because they felt anxious about their baby, leading experts to dub the phenomenon ‘scanxiety’. A further third just wanted to check on their baby without a medical reason, although most mums who paid for additional private scans (47 per cent) did so out of concern for looking after their baby’s health. Of these, 27 per cent checked if the pregnancy was viable, 12 per cent ensured there were no abnormalities earlier than the NHS scan, and one in 10 had bled or felt the baby’s movement change, prompting them to get a scan.