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Pregnancy and Birth – First-trimester scan (NT Scan)

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Pregnancy and Birth - First-trimester scan (NT Scan)



The phase of pregnancy brims with enthusiasm, expectation, and a plethora of medical evaluations to safeguard the vitality and welfare of both the mother and the growing infant. Amidst these crucial antenatal assessments lies the inaugural detailed first trimester scan, commonly known as the Nuchal Translucency (NT) scan. It plays a pivotal role in evaluating the initial phases of embryonic evolution and pinpointing potential hazards for chromosomal irregularities. In this editorial piece, we shall delve into the significance of the NT scan, and the rationale behind its indispensable role in prenatal healthcare.

The NT scan is typically performed between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. This ultrasound test measures the thickness of the nuchal translucency, which is the fluid-filled space at the back of the baby’s neck. During this period, all foetuses’ have some fluid in this area, but increased thickness can be an early indicator of chromosomal conditions such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome.


Why is the NT scan important?


Importance of NT scan takes place in common scenarios like:

  1. Early detection of chromosomal abnormalities: The primary purpose of the NT scan is to assess the risk of chromosomal abnormalities. When combined with a blood test that measures levels of pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the accuracy of detecting potential issues is significantly enhanced.
  1. Reassurance for expectant parents: For many parents, the first trimester is a time of uncertainty. The NT scan provides valuable information that can offer reassurance about the baby’s development and help in making informed decisions about further testing and care.
  1. Guidance for further testing: If the NT scan results indicate an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities, doctors may recommend additional tests, such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. These tests help to send samples to confirm the presence of specific genetic conditions.
  1. Monitoring foetal development: Beyond screening for chromosomal abnormalities, the NT scan allows doctors to observe the baby’s overall development. This includes checking the baby’s heartbeat, and the development of the limbs and organs.


What to expect during an NT Scan


The NT scan is a simple scan that involves the following steps:


  1. Preparation: There is typically no special preparation required for an NT scan. However, you may be asked to have a full bladder to provide a clearer view during the ultrasound if done trans abdominally.
  1. The Procedure: The ultrasound technician or sonographer will apply a gel to your abdomen and a transducer is used to obtain images of the baby. The transducer emits sound waves that create detailed images on a monitor which is safe in pregnancy.
  1. Measuring the Nuchal Translucency: The thickness of the nuchal translucency is measured. This measurement, along with the results of the accompanying blood test, will help calculate the risk of chromosomal abnormalities for that particular fetus.
  1. Duration: The entire process typically takes about 20 to 30 minutes if the baby is in a favourable position.
  1. Results and Follow-up: After the scan, the results are usually discussed with you by your doctors. If the scan indicates an increased risk, further testing options and next steps shall be discussed.


 The Emotional Aspect


It is natural for expectant parents to feel a mix of emotions leading up to the NT scan. Anxiety and concern about potential outcomes are common. It is important to remember that most pregnancies proceed normally and that the NT scan is a tool to ensure the best possible care for you and your baby. Communicating openly with your doctor about any concerns can help alleviate stress and provide a clearer understanding of the process.




The first-trimester NT scan is a crucial part of prenatal care that provides invaluable information about the early development of the foetus and potential risks for chromosomal abnormalities. This non-invasive test offers reassurance to expectant parents and guides doctors providers in making informed decisions about further testing and care.


For those in Thrissur, the Ambady Scan Centre is a trusted facility offering comprehensive prenatal screening services, including the NT scan. With state-of-the-art technology and experienced sonographers, Ambady Scan Centre ensures that expectant parents receive accurate, compassionate, and timely care. Their commitment to excellence makes them a reliable partner in your pregnancy journey, helping you take the best possible care of your growing family.


Schedule a consultation with us and clarify your concerns before the scan.


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