Expecting a child is an exciting and wonderful journey for a woman. Pregnancy is a unique experience, hallmarked with new physical sensations and feelings. As an expecting mother, you would want to do everything you could possibly do to ensure that your baby is born healthy and safe. To that end, your doctor will recommend various tests and ultrasounds at different stages of your pregnancy. All of these tests serve some purpose or another in gauging whether your baby is developing and functioning healthily or if there are any discrepancies. One such test is the TIFFA scan. If you want to learn more about what this scan is and how it helps during pregnancy, then continue reading.
What Is A TIFFA Scan?
The word TIFFA is an acronym for Targeted Imaging for Foetal Anomalies. It is commonly referred to as a foetal anomaly scan or an ultrasound level II scan. The scan is especially recommended during the second trimester of pregnancy and is considered essential during this period. The scan enables the doctor to examine your unborn baby thoroughly, along with your uterus. The scan helps ascertain that your baby is healthy and is developing normally. It is also integral in exploring the position of your body’s placenta.
Any doctor or medical specialist can use the results of this scan to make decisions required for the rest of your gestation period.
What Kind Of Information Does A TIFFA Scan Offer?
A doctor or a medical professional analyses a TIFFA scan for indications along the following areas:
- Face Development: Whether your baby’s face is developing as it should or if there are certain abnormalities e.g. a cleft lip
- Brain Development: The size, shape, and structure of your baby’s brain and if there are chances of any brain-related issues cropping up.
- Spine & Rib Checks: Your baby’s spine and rib are looked at to check if the bones align properly and whether skin growth is normal.
- Heart Condition: Whether or not your baby’s heart is working fine and if the valves are operating correctly with each heartbeat. It also helps look at the atria and ventricles to confirm that they are of equal size.
- Fingers & Toes: To take a look at your baby’s limbs, fingers and toes.
- Organ Functioning: To check whether your baby’s kidneys and urine production. At this point of your pregnancy, your baby should be passing urine every half hour.
As long as the TIFFA scan findings align with what is considered normal for a 20-week old foetus. However, if there is a development discrepancy of more than two weeks between the scan and the actual age of the foetus, then the doctor might recommend you undergo more tests.
Apart from the things listed above, the primary aim of TIFFA scans is to rule out congenital anomalies like:
- Any major heart defects, which have a 60% chance of being detected.
- Spina bifida or open spinal cord, which has a 90% chance of being detected.
- The absence of the upper-half of the brain, also known as anencephaly, which has a 99% chance of being detected.
- Down syndrome, which has a 50-60% chance of being detected.
Additionally, TIFFA scans can also help detect kidney-related problems such as a missing kidney, an abdominal wall that is defective, or a defective diaphragm, limb-related abnormalities, and so on.
When Is It Advised to Undergo TIFFA Scans?
Usually, a TIFFA scan is advised within a window between 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy. It is also performed between 18 to 20 weeks after conception. This is done with the purpose of detecting severe abnormalities early on so the concerned parents can take effective action. If going through with the pregnancy could have an adverse effect on the mother’s health, then the parents can also take the step to terminate the pregnancy.
Apart from being able to address concerns early on, a TIFFA scan is also used to monitor a baby’s growth. Usually, by the time it is the 19th week of the pregnancy, a foetus is about 6 inches and has developed adult-like anatomical structures. Thus, any problems related to anatomy can be detected at this stage. Additionally, a baby will also develop internal organs at this time, while millions of motor neurons will be forming in the brain. This helps a baby move around in the uterus. Thus, undergoing a TIFFA scan at this time can help you gauge various developmental abnormalities in different areas of a foetus’ body.
Basically, the ideal time to get a TIFFA scan done is usually the end of your first trimester or early on in your second trimester.
How Should You Prepare for a TIFFA Scan?
As such, you do not need to specially prepare for a TIFFA scan, the way you prepare for tests prescribed during the first trimester that require you to have a full bladder. This step is not required since your baby has grown to be large enough and can be seen in a scan of your abdomen.
However, the doctor or technician conducting the scan will require access to your belly. Thus, it is best to wear a top which can be pulled up easily.
How Is A TIFFA Scan Performed?
A TIFFA scan procedure is fairly simple and consists of basic steps. They are as follows:
- A technician will apply gel around your abdomen area
- The area where the gel has been applied will be scanned using a probe, and an image of the baby will be obtained.
- The procedure will last for a period of at least half an hour. This is because the doctor or specialist will look at the baby from various angles and collect different measurements.
- The doctor will show you some of your baby’s features like the face or hands.
- Often, the father is permitted to enter the room and look at the baby. However, this is not a practice across all diagnostic centres so make sure to check in advance.
When Is The TIFFA Scan Report Ready?
An anomaly scan like a TIFFA test is pretty thorough. Thus, the report will contain information regarding your baby’s growth, health, progress, development, and so on.
Despite the richness of the report, you will often receive it on the same day you underwent the test. However, some delays while receiving the report are normal so do not be alarmed.
If there are any irregularities present in the report, you might have to undergo a second scan. While certain anomalies can be managed with time or surgery post-birth, others can be severe and might require some action. Also, do remember that like most tests, a TIFFA scan is not a 100% accurate. Thus, although the scan might show no anomalies, your baby could be born with one, and the reverse is also true.
Experts recommend that you should consult a medical specialist with your TIFFA scan report. If there is any anomaly, a medical specialist will guide you as to what steps need to be taken. Regardless of the outcome, a TIFFA scan can help ensure that your baby’s health is looked after from the get go.