Expectant parents are often very keen to discover the gender of their unborn baby, and understandably so - knowing the gender is one of those things that really helps you to feel closer to your little bundle of joy. The people who come to our clinics for gender scans
frequently tell us that the baby seems a lot more 'real' to them once our sonographer has revealed whether it's a boy or a girl, and besides, finding out the sex is a nice little milestone to get excited for when the birth itself still seems a long way off.
With all of that in mind, it's easy to see why mums-to-be and dads-in-waiting might want to attend a gender scan as soon as possible. But attend a gender scan too early in your pregnancy, and it may be impossible to accurately identify the gender - a foetus doesn't develop sexual characteristics until a few weeks in, and nothing conclusive will actually be visible on an ultrasound scan until a little while after that.
What's the earliest I can have a gender scan?
Here at First Encounters Ultrasound we don't offer any gender confirmation scans before 16 weeks gestation. Other scan providers may offer slightly earlier scans, but we would strongly recommend that you do not attend a baby gender scan until at least the 16-week mark. Any earlier, and your baby probably won't have developed sufficiently for accurate gender identification.
Is it worth waiting a little longer?
While we're happy to provide gender scans from 16 weeks onwards, it's worth bearing in mind that not all babies develop at the same speed. Very occasionally, someone will come in for gender confirmation at 16 weeks and the sonographer still won't be able to find positive visual confirmation of the baby's sex. In these cases, we'll usually offer a complimentary re-scan at a later date (we'll never guess the gender if we're not confident in our prediction!) but to avoid disappointment, you may wish to wait an extra few days just to make sure that your baby has developed to the point where we're able to identify the gender.
You may have heard - or read - about the 'Doppler' heart monitors that are currently very popular among expectant parents. Dopplers are small handheld devices that use ultrasound technology to monitor your unborn baby's heartbeat, ostensibly giving you an easy way to hear your child's heartbeat in the comfort of your own home.
It's easy to imagine why these devices have become so popular. They are relatively cheap to purchase, and when they work, they enable you to hear the heartbeat (a very moving experience for many parents-in-waiting) without having to visit a hospital or a private ultrasound clinic.
But there's one problem with Dopplers that we've come across time and again: they sometimes fail to find a heartbeat. Unborn babies tend to move around and change position a lot (especially prior to 30 weeks gestation), and this means that it is often very difficult to find the right spot. And even if you do find the right spot, there's still no guarantee that you'll hear anything - our highly-trained sonographers occasionally struggle to pick up an audible heartbeat, and that's with a visual representation of the baby on-screen.
When a Doppler fails to deliver an audible heartbeat, it can understandably be a source of panic for the mother. In the majority of cases, the foetus turns out to be absolutely fine, but getting stressed and rushing to the hospital is neither healthy nor a particularly enjoyable experience when you're pregnant!
This isn't to say that Doppler monitors should necessarily be avoided. They have provided many heartwarming moments for expectant parents, and in some cases, they can be a great source of reassurance. However, they can also have the opposite effect, breeding panic when in reality the unborn baby is perfectly healthy. Please bear this in mind before using a Doppler, and remember that these handheld home devices are no substitute for a full ultrasound scan carried out by a registered health professional.
We have seen a few scan providers who do offer home visits, but these really are best avoided, for the following reasons:
- Portable scanning equipment is generally inferior to the state-of-the-art machinery found in the best ultrasound clinics
- Plugging equipment into an unprotected power source may result in electric shock to the mother / baby
- As explained here, regulated scan providers in England are not allowed to perform home scans as regulation only extends to a clinic environment
As much as we'd like to offer our clients the full First Encounters experience in the comfort of their own homes, there are simply too many obstacles - we wouldn't be able to deliver the professional, high-quality service that's available in our clinics.
Click here to see details of our ultrasound clinics in Cardiff and Bristol, or visit our Scan Packages page to browse the baby scan packages we offer.
Here at First Encounters Ultrasound, we are dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of everyone who visits our clinics. No matter which of our scan packages
you select, we want you to feel completely confident and reassured when you choose us as your scan provider.
As you browse our website, you will likely see our 'Safe Scan' badge on a number of different pages. This is our own personal seal of quality, and it represents our commitment to keeping you safe from potential hazards and health risks when you undergo a First Encounters baby scan.
We accomplish this in two ways: by employing experienced, qualified sonographers and by using certified state-of-the-art scanning equipment from the world's leading supplier.
Our sonographers - the members of staff responsible for carrying out each scan - are all qualified health professionals who are capable of identifying diagnostic issues as well as capturing high-quality souvenir imagery. Every First Encounters sonographer is registered with either the Health Professionals Council (HPC) or the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which means that they meet these regulators' exacting standards in a range of important areas such as hygiene and professional behaviour.
All of our sonographers are fully qualified, fully trained, and highly experienced. They all hold postgraduate diplomas and know exactly how to conduct a safe scan that gets the best possible results for the expectant mother while keeping her and her unborn child completely protected throughout.
The equipment we use to carry out our scans is all supplied by GE Healthcare, the world's leading manufacturer of ultrasound/baby scanning equipment. Our 2D, 3D and 4D scans are performed using the GE Voluson E6, with HDlive
technology that's capable of capturing clearer, crisper images than ever before.
More importantly, though, all of our machines are rigorously tested and certified safe for use, so rest assured that your safety will be preserved no matter what type of scan you opt for.
There are countless ultrasound clinics operating in the UK today, but many of them don't go anywhere near far enough in the safety measures they take. An alarming number of scan providers don't employ registered health professionals or use certified scanning equipment, and this approach can unfortunately lead to dire consequences.
Here at First Encounters, we do everything we possibly can to ensure the safety of you and your unborn child. Click here to browse our available scan packages, or feel free to contact us now if you have any further questions.