Growth Scan: What, Why and How It Is Done

Roohi Khanna had an upcoming appointment for a growth scan at 32 weeks and asked the doctor for details about it in her antenatal visit.

What is a growth scan at 32 weeks?

A growth scan is a routine obstetric ultrasound scan performed for expecting mothers in the third trimester

The ultrasound is usually offered between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy to assess the baby’s development and check for

  • Growth and weight of the baby
  • Baby’s position and movement
  • level of amniotic fluid in the womb
  • Location of the placenta

Curious to know what it entailed, she asked her gynecologist what she should expect. 

What can I expect from a growth scan?

The scan is performed in the same way as an abdominal ultrasound. You will be asked to lay down and uncover your belly. The sonographer will apply gel over your abdomen and then examine you using a probe.

“The scan is helpful in determining how the baby is growing,” says Dr. Anita Sabherwal Anand, Consultant Obstetrician-Gynecologist at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital in South Delhi.

“We compare the results of this scan with previous scans done over the course of your pregnancy to evaluate the baby’s progress.”

The  ultrasonologist will perform the following measurements on the baby which help determine the growth and weight of the baby 

  • Biparietal diameter (BPD), which is the diameter of the baby’s head
  • Head circumference (HC), which is the length measured around the baby’s head
  • Abdominal circumference (AC), which is the length measured around the baby’s abdomen 
  • Femur length (FL), which measures the length of the thigh bone (femur)

The ultrasonologist then looks at the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby and notes the location of the placenta.

How long does a growth scan take?

A growth scan usually takes about 15-20 minutes. 

With clarity on what the growth scan checks, Roohi wanted to know what the results could mean.

How do you interpret a growth scan report?

“Your report will contain data about fetal biometry (BPD, HC, AC and FL measurements) and the estimated weight, besides the baby’s position and the level of amniotic fluid,” explains Dr. Anita.

“The pregnancy week and age of the baby is also calculated and reported”. 

“The results of a growth scan will be interpreted by your gynecologist in relation to the normal expected growth of a baby at that gestation, and by comparing them to the results of previous scans.”

“As long as your pregnancy is progressing smoothly, there is no need to be worried.” 

What does the scan reveal about my baby’s growth?

The measurements taken during the growth scan or the fetal well-being scan help reveal abnormalities in the baby’s size. This aids in identifying babies who are either not growing well or are growing larger than expected. Hence, there are three types of outcomes:

  1. Baby has an average sized head and abdomen: If these measurements correspond to the findings through the clinical examination by the doctor, the baby is most likely growing as expected.
  2. Baby’s measurements fall short of what is expected at that particular gestation, it may reveal that the baby’s growth is inadequate. In such situations a detailed evaluation of the baby’s well being with a biophysical scan and doppler ultrasound will be offered. The growth and wellbeing of the baby will be monitored with ultrasound scans at regular intervals.
  3. Baby’s size is bigger than expected (macrosomia), it may indicate high blood sugar levels in the mother, either due to obesity or due to gestational diabetes.

A growth scan with doppler studies assesses the blood flow in the umbilical cord and in the baby’s brain and heart.

Roohi’s forehead began to crease. Upon noticing the look on her face, the doctor reassured her. 

“As per your previous reports, your baby is doing well, so don’t get stressed.”

Roohi couldn’t help but ask, “if the scan shows any of these conditions, does it mean that I won’t be able to have a vaginal birth?” 

“In most of these conditions, we need to first physically examine you and review all your reports. We keep an eye on your progress through frequent ultrasounds and non-stress tests, if required. If there are no complications and the baby is healthy and is getting enough oxygen, we don’t need to rush into a cesarean section,” counsels the doctor.

“We will help you try for a normal delivery as long as there is no clear reason not to.”

Roohi let out a deep sigh. She realized she was in safe hands and trusted the doctor to do what was best for her and her baby. 

Roohi’s Growth Scan Results

When she came in for a reports consultation, she was pleased to learn that her baby was growing well and she would be able to have a normal birth as planned.

Schedule your growth scan appointment with Sitaram Bhartia Hospital by calling us on +919871001458.

This article has been written with and medically reviewed by Dr. Anita Sabherwal Anand, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist with over 20 years of experience.

dr-anita-sabherwal-anand-imageDr. Anita Sabherwal Anand
DNB Secondary (Obstetrics & Gynaecology), National Board of Medical Education, New Delhi (1999); MD (Obstetrics & Gynaecology), Lady Hardinge Medical College, University of Delhi (1997); MBBS, Lady Hardinge Medical College, University of Delhi (1992)


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