There are many different ultrasound scan packages available to pregnant women nowadays, and this variety can sometimes cause confusion. Every scan is of course different, but above all else, it’s important to understand the distinction between elective ultrasound scans and medical ultrasound scans.
What is the difference between medical and elective scans?
Simply put, a medical ultrasound scan is one that’s ordered by a doctor/midwife, while an elective ultrasound scan is one that you choose to undergo yourself. Medical scans are generally available for free on the NHS, whereas elective (or ‘keepsake’) scans will be delivered by private companies who charge a fee for the services they provide.
Most women in the UK undergo two medical ultrasound scans as standard over the course of a pregnancy; these scans are intended to track the baby’s growth/development, calculate a due date, and identify any anomalies that may be present.
In addition to these two scans, a pregnant woman may choose to undergo one or more elective ultrasound scans over the course of her pregnancy.
Why book an elective ultrasound scan?
Reasons for choosing to undergo an elective ultrasound scan vary from person to person. Here are some examples of what a keepsake scan can provide:
- High quality 3D/4D imaging. Medical scans generally result in 2D images only. Some elective ultrasound scans give the expectant parents a closer, more detailed look at their unborn child - some of our customers are even treated to the sigh of their baby-to-be smiling and waving!
- Early gender confirmation. While medical scans can provide gender confirmation (i.e. whether your baby will be a boy or a girl), many elective scan providers allow their customers to discover this information several weeks earlier. Our gender scans start at 16 weeks.
- Additional information. Attending an elective ultrasound session in addition to your NHS scans will allow you to track your baby’s growth over a longer timeframe. We may also spot problems/anomalies that develop after you’ve been to the hospital.
- Keepsakes and souvenirs. Most elective scan providers offer a wide variety of gifts and souvenirs, which can be taken home after the scan and shared with family and friends. Common examples include glossy photographs, DVD recordings, key rings, and fridge magnets; we at First Encounters also offer the ever-popular Heartbeat Bear!
An elective ultrasound scan should NEVER be used as a substitute for a medical scan. Instead, elective scans are intended to complement the scans provided by the NHS, giving you an enjoyable experience and allowing you to feel that much closer to your unborn child.
If you’re due to give birth in 2016, you may be interested to know about some celebrities who are also set to grow their families with new additions this year:
The 37-year-old wife of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood is expecting twins in 2016. Although this will be their first pregnancy together, the 68 year old has already had four children from previous relationships, which means that the pair won’t be short of older siblings to spoil them!
Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway (pictured above) is expecting her first child with husband Adam Shulman, who she married in 2012.
The Bridesmaids actress is also expecting her first child this year with boyfriend Bobby Cannavale. Although the pair have decided to keep the baby’s sex a secret, Rose is due to give birth in late January, so we should find out the answer to that question very soon.
The writer and YouTuber announced her pregnancy last year in an adorable video featuring her husband Tom and son Buzz, who has already become something of an internet sensation since he was born in 2014. In the video, Giovanna and Tom set up their son as ‘Player One’ on the Sega Mega Drive console, while displaying an ultrasound scan image with the caption ‘Player Two Loading’.
The wife of British tennis star Andy Murray will be having their first child this year. The pregnancy was announced back in August 2015; according to Andy, it is something the pair had been considering for a while, as they have been a couple since 2005.
Kelly Clarkson will be expecting her second child in 2016, after making the announcement on stage at a concert in Los Angeles. Having experienced several issues during her first pregnancy, including the near-loss of her singing voice, the American Idol star is presumably hoping for a less eventful experience this time around! Although there have been some reports of the signer being forced to rest by her doctor, everything seems to be fine with her unborn baby boy so far.
As you can see, 2016 is already going to be a rather busy year for celebrity births, and those are just the ones we know about already!
Here's a question we often hear:
"Do I have to visit your clinic for my ultrasound scan? Can you come to me instead?"
It's not hard to imagine why a mum-to-be might prefer to undergo an ultrasound scan in the comfort of her own home. After all, pregnancy can make it quite difficult to get around (particularly for those who don't drive - we can probably all agree that sitting at home and waiting for the sonographer to knock is a far more enticing proposition than standing around at a bus stop!)
But while we understand why people ask this question, the answer - sadly - is no, we don't recommend undergoing an ultrasound scan at home
. There are a number of reasons why we at First Encounters Ultrasound
don't offer home ultrasound scans, including the following:
- Our clinics are hygienic, comfortable, and fit for purpose. There's no way of ensuring that each customer's home will meet these crucial requirements.
- Our equipment is not mobile. We at First Encounters are proud to use the very best ultrasound devices currently on the market (including HD Live). While our state-of-the-art equipment is ideal for producing top-quality images, it sadly isn't very portable, meaning that we would not be able to offer the same high standard if we operated outside of our own premises.
However, there's another, even more important reason why we don't offer home ultrasound scans: industry regulation. In England, our work is strictly regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and since their standards don't account for home visits, we would lose our CQC-approved status if we started offering this service.
Interestingly, Health Inspectorate Wales (HIW, the Welsh equivalent of the CQC) actually don't regulate diagnostic and screening services such as ours, which is why some companies who do offer home ultrasound scans are registered in Wales, even though they operate exclusively on the English side of the border
(very shady if you ask us!) That being said, it is our own policy that our Cardiff
clinic must meet the same industry standards as those located in England, and so we are unable to offer a 'mobile' service from any of our locations.
If you are thinking of booking an ultrasound scan, it's always better to choose a professional, regulated provider who can offer you the very highest level of service.
Drinking during pregnancy is a something of a grey area when it comes to prenatal health. There is no well-defined limit for expectant mothers to follow, and so it can be difficult to establish how much alcohol - if any - it's safe to consume while pregnant. While there are some guidelines to assist women in their decision, the final choice can only be decided by the individual, based on the facts provided by healthcare professionals:
- Alcohol is able to rapidly reach your baby through the placenta, which can lead to miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.
- Drinking can also damage the baby's cells, impacting the developing organs and facial features.
- Another risk posed by alcohol is the development of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can cause a number of issues from learning difficulties to birth defects.
- Foetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe of all alcohol-related disorders that can occur during pregnancy, causing babies to be born and remain small throughout their lives, often with facial defects. This can also effect muscle tone, coordination and behaviour, causing children to have learning and mobility difficulties throughout life.
- Binge Drinking - This refers to a large number of units, consumed over a short space of time. Even if you maintain a largely alcohol-free pregnancy, the occasional heavy-drinking session can still prove to be extremely harmful to your baby. In fact, evidence has shown that babies of binge drinkers are more at risk of developing FAS than the children of drinkers who consumed the same amount of units over a longer period of time.
- Drinking During the Last Trimester - This is the period when your baby is growing more and the brain is developing. For this reason, some experts have suggested that drinking during this period is related to learning difficulties and memory problems.
- Drinking Early in Pregnancy - Experts advise mothers not to consume alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy, due to the fact that so little is known about the potential damage this could cause the developing foetus.
- Heavy Drinking - Of all the factors, this is unsurprisingly the most damaging, due to the large amount of toxins being absorbed by mother and child. If you are a heavy drinker or have problems with alcohol, it is advised that you cut down before becoming pregnant, or seek help if you are already pregnant and are having trouble cutting down.
While some experts suggest that it is acceptable to drink one to two units a week without impacting the health of your baby, there is too substantial a divide in opinion to provide a definitive answer as to whether or not light drinking is bad for your unborn child. In conclusion, it is safe to say that the best course of action is to avoid the consumption of alcohol altogether, as it is far simpler to remove the risk instead of wondering whether you are doing the right thing.
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