So, you’ve reached the halfway point of your pregnancy and it’s time for the 20-week scan. It’s a big milestone, but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience. Many expectant parents wonder: how common is it to receive bad news at this scan? Let’s dive deep into what you can expect and what the statistics really say.

Understanding the 20-Week Scan

What is the 20-Week Scan?

The 20-week scan, often referred to as the mid-pregnancy scan or anomaly scan, is a detailed ultrasound examination. This scan checks the baby’s development and looks for any physical abnormalities.

Why is it Important?

This is crucial because it provides comprehensive insights into the baby’s growth and development. It helps in detecting any major physical issues early on, allowing for timely intervention if needed. It’s a way to ensure everything is on track as you head into the latter half of your pregnancy.

Common Findings at the 20-Week Scan

Typical Positive Outcomes

Most of the time, parents leave the 20-week scan with big smiles, having seen their baby in more detail than ever before. It’s common to get confirmation of the baby’s sex and to see the tiny details of their face, hands, and feet.

Common Concerns

However, sometimes the scan may reveal some concerns. These can range from minor issues that may resolve on their own to more significant problems that need to be monitored closely or managed after birth.

How Often is Bad News Delivered?

Statistical Overview

Statistically speaking, the majority of 20-week scans do not result in bad news. About 3-5% of scans reveal serious issues. That means for most people, the scan is a reassuring confirmation that their baby is developing normally.

Factors Influencing Outcomes

Several factors can influence the outcome of the scan. Maternal age, medical history, and certain genetic factors play a role. For instance, older mothers or those with certain medical conditions might have a slightly higher risk of receiving concerning news.

Types of Bad News You Might Receive

Structural Anomalies

These are physical defects in the baby’s development, such as heart defects, cleft lip or palate, or spine abnormalities like spina bifida.

Growth Issues

Sometimes, the scan might show that the baby isn’t growing as expected. This could indicate a problem with the placenta or other issues that might need closer monitoring.

Genetic Concerns

The scan can also pick up markers that suggest a higher risk for genetic conditions like Down syndrome. These markers are not definitive but may lead to further testing.

Emotional Impact of Receiving Bad News

Initial Reactions

Hearing that something might be wrong with your baby is devastating. It’s normal to feel a mix of emotions, from shock and anger to sadness and fear. These feelings are valid, and it’s important to acknowledge them.

Coping Mechanisms

Talking to your partner, friends, or a counselor can help. It’s also useful to gather information. Understanding what the issue is and what it means for your baby can make the situation feel more manageable.

Steps to Take After Receiving Bad News

Immediate Actions

If you do receive bad news, the first step is to stay calm and listen to what the healthcare provider says. They will guide you on the next steps, which might include further testing or consultations with specialists.

Long-Term Planning

Depending on the news, you might need to prepare for medical interventions or special care for your baby after birth. Making a plan with your healthcare team can provide a sense of control and preparedness.

Seeking Support

Professional Help

Consulting with a specialist, such as a genetic counselor or a perinatologist, can provide detailed information and support tailored to your situation.

Support Groups and Online Communities

Connecting with others who have been through similar experiences can be incredibly comforting. There are many online communities and local support groups for parents facing similar challenges.


While it’s natural to worry about the 20-week scan, it’s important to remember that most scans result in positive news. Even when bad news is delivered, there are many resources and supports available to help you navigate the situation. Stay informed, seek support, and trust that you have the strength to handle whatever comes your way.