Reasons to choose First Encounters Ultrasound

As demand for 4D ultrasound scans increases, we're seeing more and more new people entering the field and offering to provide baby scan experiences at competitive prices. Sadly, the quality of the service provided varies hugely from one company to the next, and it's heartbreaking when expectant parents pay for a private scan and end up with low-grade images that are barely even worth sharing.

Here at First Encounters, we strive to deliver the best possible service to our customers. We firmly believe that we're head and shoulders above most scan providers operating in the UK today - here are 10 reasons why:

1. We are an approved and regulated scan provider.

First Encounters Ultrasound is registered with and approved by the Care Quality Commission. As a CQC-regulated provider, we ensure that you are cared for by qualified healthcare professionals (our sonographers) who are licensed to perform ultrasound scans using equipment that is certified safe for purpose.

2. We employ licensed sonographers who are qualified and experienced.

All of our sonographers are registered with the Health Professionals Council, the regulator for health professionals throughout the UK. In order to achieve HPC-registered status, one must meet the Council's standards for training, behaviour, health/hygiene, and professional skills. Many of the 4D ultrasound scan packages currently flooding the market are NOT carried out by registered healthcare professionals, which could mean that potential complications with your pregancy go undetected.

3. We use advanced GE Healthcare equipment with HDlive technology.

Our scans are carried out using the latest GE Voluson E6 ultrasound machines, with genuine HDlive technology. GE Healthcare are the #1 manufacturer for the baby scan sector and their equipment is championed by legitimate scan clinics across the globe - no other unit comes close to the standard of clarity that our machines produce (especially when it comes to 4D HDlive scans).

4. Our equipment is certified safe for purpose.

Every piece of machinery we use to carry out our customers' baby scans is inspected, tested, and certified safe for purpose. Many scan providers, sadly, do not meet this standard, using uncertified and potentially unsafe equipment that puts both mother and baby at risk.

5. We are accomplished in both diagnostic and souvenir imaging.

Our sonographers specialise in diagnostic ultrasound scanning, meaning that they are qualified to carry out your souvenir scan AND assess the health and growth of your unborn child. 

6. We provide printed pregnancy reports with every scan.

Everyone who undergoes a scan at one of our clinics also receives a First Encounters pregnancy report. This is a detailed document containing all the information we gather during your scan, such as gestation age, estimated due date, various measurements, and the position of your baby inside the womb.

7. All of our employees are trusted, caring professionals.

We've already described the qualifications and accreditations that our sonographers hold, but just as important is the friendly, caring approach employed by everyone here at First Encounters, from our administrative staff to the sonographers themselves. We do everything we can to make each customer feel totally welcome and completely at ease when they come for their scan.

8. Our scans are carried out in a relaxed, spacious clinic environment.

As mentioned above, we're committed to ensuring that expectant parents feel relaxed and at ease in our clinics. Our clinics are comfortable and modern, with enough space to accommodate everyone who might attend. We also maintain very high standards of hygiene and safety within our clinics.

9. Children, family and friends are always welcome.

Each scanning room has space for up to 6 guests. You are more than welcome to bring anyone you wish, including friends, relatives, and even young children who are eager to say hello to the newest member of the family!

10. We offer a comprehensive and competitive range of scan packages.

Unlike many providers who simply offer a single 'one-size-fits-all' scan package, we have ten different packages to choose from. The best package for you will depend on the type of images you wish to capture, how far along you are, and the souvenirs you want to take home after the scan. Click here to compare the available options.

Still not convinced? Take a look at our Reviews page, or look at what our customers have been saying about us on Facebook!
HD Live Scans

Manufactured by GE Healthcare, HD Live is the most advanced 4D ultrasound technology currently on the market. With its improved frame rate and enhanced colour palette, this equipment allows sonographers to capture clearer, crisper images than ever before, which is great news for expectant parents who want a more detailed glimpse of their unborn baby.

The images below should give you a good impression of the difference between HD Live technology and standard 3D/4D ultrasound equipment.

Left image captured by GE Voluson i. Right image captured by GE Voluson E6 with HD Live technology.

We at First Encounters were extremely impressed when we first witnessed what HD Live technology was capable of, and so we are very pleased to announce that HD Live scans are now available at both of our ultrasound clinics in England and Wales. Our Cardiff clinic has been equipped with HD Live technology for several months now, and this week we installed this superior hardware in our Bristol clinic as well. This means that ALL of our 4D scans now use HD Live technology as standard, regardless of which location you visit!

Click here to compare our 4D scan packages and book your high-definition ultrasound experience online.

Accept no substitutes!

Here at First Encounters Ultrasound, we're proud to offer families a superior scan experience using genuine HD Live technology from GE Healthcare. The machine we use for HD Live scans is the GE Voluson E6.

We've seen a lot of other scan providers claiming to provide HD Live scans, but more often than not, these claims prove misleading upon closer inspection. Some providers who purport to use HD Live equipment actually carry out scans using a GE Voluson i, the machine we used to use before our clinics upgraded to the Voluson E6!

Before you book an HD Live scan, be sure to ask the provider what equipment they use to perform the scan. If it's not the genuine article, we strongly recommend that you look elsewhere - otherwise, you may end up feeling very disappointed with the quality of your scan footage!

For more information about HD Live scans, please feel free to contact the First Encounters team.

earlyAssure scans available in Bristol and Cardiff

Here in the UK, an expectant mother generally won't get to see her unborn child until she attends her NHS dating scan, which tends to takes place at the end of the first trimester (i.e. roughly 12-13 weeks into the pregnancy). However, if you feel you require some reassurance prior to that point, you may want to consider booking an early pregnancy scan with First Encounters Ultrasound.

How soon can I have an early pregnancy scan?

Our earlyAssure™ early pregnancy scan package is available at 8-13 weeks gestation. Most of the expectant parents who come to us for an earlyAssure™ scan have not yet attended their first NHS scan, and so in these cases we serve as a first line of reassurance, offering mums- and dads-to-be a little extra peace of mind ahead of the hospital appointment.

What's included in an early pregnancy scan?

The earlyAssure experience is a 2D ultrasound scan that's geared towards dating, viability, and your own reassurance. We will ensure that your pregnancy is viable and estimate a due date based on a crown-to-rump measurement; we will also check yolk sac positioning.

Here's what you'll go home with after attending an early pregnancy scan at First Encounters:
You'll also have the option to purchase additional souvenirs, such as photographic fridge magnets, keyrings, and extra photos to share with family and friends.

Why get an early scan?

Here are some reasons why you may wish to get an early pregnancy scan:
  • If you are worried because you have experienced vaginal bleeding, an early scan will make sure that your pregnancy is still viable

  • An early scan will also exclude the possibility that you are suffering an ectopic pregnancy (learn more about ectopic pregnancies here)

  • Unlike the NHS scan (which you should still attend whether you decide to get an earlyAssure™ scan or not), a private scan will give you the opportunity to take home souvenirs such as those listed above
Visit our earlyAssure™ page now to book your early pregnancy scan, or click here to see the other scan packages we offer.

Pregnancy test photo by ecooper99
Food is always a big concern when you're pregnant for the first time. We've already discussed what you shouldn't eat, so now here's some simple and easy-to-follow advice on what you should eat during your pregnancy, trimester by trimester:

During the First Trimester

What to eat:
  • Starchy foods such as bread, porridge, plain biscuits,oatcakes, pasta, rice and potatoes
  • Ginger (this will help to curb nausea)
  • Foods high in folic acid, such as green, leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils) and fruits (citrus fruits, raspberries, strawberries). 
Other advice:
  • Eat small meals often.
  • Minimise your consumptions of fatty, hard-to-digest foods.
  • If you're experiencing morning sickness, keep a plain biscuit on your bedside table as a snack for when you wake up.
  • Don't overeat - you won't need to increase your food consumption ('eating for two') until later in your pregnancy, and even then, you will only have to increase your consumption by a few hundred calories.

During the Second Trimester 

What to eat:
  • Oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines) twice a week
  • Wholemeal bread, cereals, and pasta
  • Oats, barley and pulses
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lean meats such as chicken
Other advice:
  • Eat a variety of wholegrain foods, and up your consumption of water to avoid constipation.
  • Keep your iron levels at a healthy level by consuming lean meats, and plant-based sources such as dried apricots, spinach and lentils.
  • Include sources of vitamin C to aid your body's absorption of iron from plant sources.

During the Third Trimester 

What to eat:
  • Healthy fats from natural sources (found in foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs, and salmon)
  • A good variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Calcium-rich foods such as plain yoghurt, canned fish and tofu

Other advice:
  • Avoid bending or lying down after eating to help prevent heartburn and indigestion.
  • Increase your food intake by 150-200 calories a day.
  • Try to optimise your vitamin D levels, with foods such as eggs and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Avoid spicy and fatty foods, to avoid the risk of further aggravating symptoms of indigestion.
Click here for a list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, or return to the First Encounters homepage to find out about the 3D/4D scan packages we offer for expectant parents and their families!
Private ultrasound scans
 
Recently, many worrying stories of unregulated ultrasound scan providers have come to our attention. There's a growing practice of misinformation and cutting corners that can cause customers to be sold a service that does not meet industry standards and, in the worst cases, can even cause mother and child to be put at risk. For this reason, we feel that it is vitally important for us to share this information with our readers, in order to allow expectant parents to make an informed decision when planning a private ultrasound scan.
 
While all 3D/4D ultrasound companies may seem quite similar at first glance, you may find on closer inspection that the provider you've chosen isn't being entirely honest about the services they offer. Here are some of the issues we've spotted most frequently here at First Encounters:

Misleading Customers Regarding Available Services

We've spotted many scan providers who claim to offer well-known services when in fact they do not use the equipment required to provide that service. One example of this is HD Live ultrasound, which can only truly be delivered using genuine HD Live equipment. We use an HD Live machine to conduct scans at our clinic in Cardiff, whereas at our Bristol clinic uses a GE Voluson I. Many providers will advertise that they offer 'HD Live' scanning, when in fact, they use other, inferior equipment to perform their scans.

Operating Without Regulation

In England, it has been mandatory for ultrasound providers to register with the CQC (Care Quality Commission) since 2010, yet some providers still attempt to avoid this requirement by claiming that their scans are 'for entertainment purposes only'. Those operating without regulation will often employ staff who have not been trained to a professional standard, and will use equipment that has not been properly tested - all without being subject to any independent inspections. To comply with English law and provide the highest level of service possible, First Encounters Bristol is approved, registered and regulated by the CQC, and is subject to regular checks to validate the quality of our services.
 
While our Cardiff clinic is unable to register with the CQC due to being based in Wales, not England, we do ensure that it meets the same standards as the Bristol clinic at all times. Many similar providers in Wales neglect to do so, due to the fact that the HIW (Health Inspectorate Wales) does not currently regulate the same diagnostic and screening activities as those monitored by the CQC in England. This is something to keep in mind when booking in Wales, as this makes it easier for unscrupulous scan providers to operate without detection.

Potentially Unsafe Equipment

As we've already touched upon, we strive to use the most up-to-date ultrasound equipment at our facilities. All of our equipment is purchased directly from the manufacturer, who gives us the knowledge required to set up and use these products properly. We also ensure that this equipment is inspected and serviced on a regular basis, in order to confirm that it is safe for use at all times.
 
Many scan providers do not meet the same standard, sourcing equipment second-hand and setting it up without the proper knowledge. One particular risk comes from providers who do not properly isolate the equipment they are using - this is very dangerous as it can lead to electric shocks!

Unqualified Sonographers 

Alongside their use of unmonitored and unreliable equipment, many independent scan providers will employ staff who are not properly qualified to perform a baby scan. In some cases, this will mean using sonographers who do not have any previous experience performing baby scans, rendering them unaware of what exactly to look for during a scan. In the worst cases, companies may use individuals who are not qualified whatsoever, a practice we view as highly irresponsible.
 
At both First Encounters clinics, scans are performed by qualified obstetric sonographers, which means that they have both the knowledge needed to operate ultrasound equipment and the experience needed to perform a baby scan and diagnose potential problems. Each of our sonographers is also registered with the Health Professional Council (HPC), which regulates their practice and ensures that they have the right skills and training to do their jobs.

What Should I Look Out For?

If you are concerned about a company's credentials as a responsible scan provider, here are a few things you can look out for:
  • Are they registered with the correct regulatory bodies? Is there evidence of this on their website?
  • Do they mention that their practice is for 'entertainment only' or 'non-diagnostic'? These could be warning signals that the practice is unregulated.
  • Does their equipment/staff register measure up with the services advertised?
  • Are their prices significantly lower than those other practices? If a price or deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!