Morphology Scan

On the day

When you visit Adelaide Women’s Imaging for a morphology scan you will be greeted by one of our friendly reception staff.

A sonographer will then collect you from our reception area and take you to the ultrasound room. You may need to change into a medical gown for your procedure.

Once the sonographer has taken an initial set of images, they will be reviewed by the obstetrician/gynaecologist. On many occasions the doctor will then also perform a brief ultrasound assessment. Wherever possible, you will be given feedback regarding results at the time of the scan.


Can every defect of the fetus be seen?

No, a normal ultrasound examination cannot guarantee a normal fetus. Unfortunately there are still a few problems, which cannot be seen. We cannot see chromosome abnormalities, but may see changes indicating a higher likelihood of chromosome abnormality.

Can I find out the sex of my baby?

Often the sex of the fetus can be seen. Sometimes it cannot be seen due to the position of the fetus.

Can I have a photo or DVD of the images / scan?

A DVD of the scan will be provided where possible.

What is the risk of the scan?

Transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasound examination are a safe investigation at all stages of pregnancy.

Also known as the 18-20 week (2nd trimester) pregnancy ultrasound examination, a Morphology Scan - Obstetric Ultrasound is often considered part of routine obstetric care. The purpose of this examination is to assess:

  • Age of pregnancy
  • Number of babies in the uterus
  • Baby's physical development and assess anatomy. This involves a detailed examination of the baby’s head, brain, face, lips, heart, stomach, lungs, abdominal wall, kidneys, bladder, spine arms, legs, hands, and feet.
  • Position of placenta
  • Volume of fluid around the baby

This examination is expected to detect the majority of major fetal malformations. It is important to appreciate however that such an examination does not detect all abnormalities. Many congenital heart abnormalities are complex and escape diagnosis at the 18 weeks ultrasound examination. Also in many instances the view of the fetus may be hampered by the fetal position at the time of examination. Also the tissue interposed between the ultrasound probe and the baby absorbs the ultrasound waves, so if a particular patient is overweight the fatty tissue of the abdominal wall may make visualisation of the fetus difficult. In these circumstances the patient may be rebooked for further assessment of the fetus.

Finally in certain circumstances fetal abnormalities may not be evident on ultrasound despite adequate views. This may be explained by the natural history of the condition where the abnormality only becomes evident in later pregnancy or where there are in fact no structural changes in the baby (eg. cerebral palsy, biochemical abnormalities and some chromosomal abnormalities).


Do not empty your bladder for 20 minutes prior to the scan. It needs to be slightly full.


The sonographer will ask you to lie on a couch next to the ultrasound machine. A clear gel is applied to the stomach. The ultrasound probe is then placed in contact with the skin and moved over the surface to study the fetus below. The scan is completely painless, although pressure may be applied to improve the view in some areas.