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!
 

While we're sure you're already aware of how unpredictable and ever-changing each individual pregnancy can be, it always comes as a great help to prepare for the birth as much as possible. By creating a birth plan with your midwife or chosen health professional, you will be able to map out the details of your birth experience as you would like it to develop, while also preparing for any eventualities beyond your control. 

If you're unsure about what to include in your birth plan, or wondering how you can put these instructions in place, simply follow the advice outlined below:

What is a Birth Plan?

Although a birth plan is not an essential requirement for expectant mothers, it certainly acts as a useful reference for the midwives and doctors who will be looking after you, while also providing a great way to prepare for your labour in advance of your due date. 

While certain aspects will be affected by factors such as previous pregnancies and other medical history, the main aim of the birth plan is to give you as much control over the details of your labour as possible. From where you would like to give birth to your choice of pain relief, your plan should contain all of your preferences for the birth of your child, based on your own inclinations combined with the advice of your midwife. While it is vitally important that the plan should reflect your individual wishes, you should also remember the importance of flexibility, as you may need to adjust your plan to deal with unexpected circumstances once you have gone into labour. Your midwife will, of course, strive to follow the original plan as much as possible, but it is important to realize that not all your preferences will be achievable if circumstances change.

Where To Start

Before setting out a birth plan, you should seek out advice from medical professionals and other mothers in order to get a better idea of the pattern you would like your birth to follow. This will go hand-in-hand with your hospital appointments throughout your pregnancy, as well as your participation in local antenatal classes, which should give you countless opportunities to seek advice and assess your options. As you gather your information, you can note it down for reference when you come to setting out your finalised plans.

Once you have gathered sufficient information regarding the services available to you (along with identifying any possible constraints), you should then discuss these with your chosen birth partner. This will give them a chance to add any of their own suggestions, while also allowing them to gain a better understanding of how they can support your throughout the birth.

Things to Consider

When the time comes to put pen to paper and make your birth plan, here are the key things you should include in your specifications:
  • Identifying Your Birth Partner  - Name your partner and explain their level of involvement in your birth, making a note of any procedures you do not want them to be present for.

  • Pain Relief - Specify the type(s) of pain relief you would like to receive in order of preference, drawing attention to any you would like to avoid if possible. This should include medical treatments as well as natural forms of pain relief.

  • Position - Explain your preferred position for delivery, while also noting how flexible you would like to be in terms of your mobility during labour.

  • Location - This will include the geographical location you have selected for your birth, as well as your preferred delivery room style. This could, for example, include a request for a home birth.

  • Interventions - Include details of any interventions you would be happy to accept if the situation calls for them. This includes details such as speeding up your labour or assisted birth.

  • Heart Rate Monitoring - Provide details of how you would like your baby's heartbeat to be monitored during labour.

  • Third Stage Planning - This includes details for the delivery of the placenta and the cutting of the umbilical chord.

  • Post-Birth Details - Specify whether you would like your baby to be handed to you straight away or after cleaning, and explain your plans for feeding.

  • Emergency Care - As well as planning for any unexpected changes to the birth itself, you can also note your wishes in the event that your baby has to receive any additional care.

What if I'm Having a Caesarean?

If you've been advised to book a planned caesarean due to a medical condition or previous pregnancy, you will still be able to have a degree of control over your birth. You will still be able to choose the type of pain relief you would like to receive, although this will relate to the choice of anaesthetic and how it is administered. You will also be able to include your birthing partner in your plans, although they will have to follow the guidelines set out by the hospital. 

As well as selecting the medical details for your caesarian, you will also be able to decide on the ambience of the room, along with how much of the birth you would like to witness. This could include the amount of sound in the room, as well as your choice of if and when you would like the screen to be lowered during the birth. 

When putting your birth plan together, ensure that the opinion of your trusted medical professional is valued above all else. For assistance in creating your plan, ask your doctor or midwife for help, and use the information you have gathered during the course of your pregnancy. 

Here at First Encounters, we offer a complimentary pregnancy report with all of our scans, which can provide you with essential details about the health and position of your baby, in order to help you plan more efficiently for the birth. If you would like an additional glimpse at your little one before the birth, or would like to gain more information to help you plan for their arrival, take a look at our range of scan packages here.
 
Feeling your baby kick for the first time is an important milestone for any expectant mother, particularly when it's your first pregnancy. It can be extremely exciting to have that spark of life inside of you confirmed, although it can also be somewhat difficult to understand what kind of sensation to expect, and when! 
 
We've come to realise that many women are unsure about monitoring their baby's movements, and so we thought that we would write an informative piece for reference. In this blog post, we'll outline the types of sensation that you can expect to experience at various points throughout your pregnancy. 

What will the movement feel like?

The first movements of your pregnancy, referred to as 'quickening', are usually described as a fluttering sensation. If this is your first pregnancy, you may find it somewhat difficult to identify, but should find it more and more easy to pinpoint as time passes. By the second and third trimesters, your baby's movements should be far more distinctive, as you will be able to prominently feel your baby's kicks and jabs.

When will I start to feel these movements?

The time frame for experiencing your baby's movements can vary quite substantially in the early stages, particularly when comparing first pregnancies with those of women who have experienced pregnancy before. The average time to expect a detection of movement, however, is between 18 and 20 weeks. As previously mentioned, this may take slightly longer if it's your first pregnancy, and may even come as early as 16 weeks if you've already had a baby. If you haven't experienced any movement by 24 weeks, you should consult your midwife so that she can check that all is well.

How often should my baby be moving?

Again, there are no set amount of movements that you should look out for, although you may find that your baby is most active between 9 PM and 1 AM. There is also evidence to show that by your third trimester, your baby will move around about 30 times each hour, although you may not discern all of these. There is no need to keep a chart of how many kicks you feel each day, although it is useful to familiarize yourself with your baby's movement patterns during waking hours. This will be different for everyone, so it's all about taking note of the movements and getting to know what's normal for your baby.The best way to identify these kicks and wriggles is when you're lying down, so try to put your feet up for a while so that you can really take notice of what you're feeling. If your baby's movement pattern changes suddenly and your are concerned, again, as your doctor or midwife to take a closer look.

Will I see my baby moving when I have an ultrasound scan?

If your baby is awake during your scan, then of course, you will be able to see your baby move! At First Encounters, we recommend receiving  your scan between 25 and 29 weeks, as your baby will be well-developed by this time, and will also have plenty of room to move around. If your baby has assumed and awkward position and we are unable to obtain a high-quality image, your sonographer may ask you to stroll around in order to encourage movement. If your baby is being particularly difficult on that specific day, we will offer you a complimentary re-scan on an alternative date. With selected scan packages such as the Deluxe 4D, you will receive a 5 minute DVD recording, which will allow you to relieve your unborn baby's movements for years to come. You can preview our 4D scan images and video recording in our gallery, to give you a better idea of just how detailed our recordings are.
 
If you would like to witness your own babies movements in stunning 4D imagery, book one of our scan packages today, or get in touch to find out more about our services. Further details about our scans and what they are able to reveal, can be found on our FAQs page.
We recently received a lovely review from an expectant mother who visited our Bristol ultrasound clinic for a 4D scan a few weeks ago.

Inside Bristol ClinicInside Bristol Clinic

Having received a disappointing 4D scan from another provider in the past, this particular lady was at first a little apprehensive about coming to the First Encounters clinic; family issues and a difficult pregnancy added to her pre-scan stress, meaning that our staff had to take extra care to deliver a pleasant and memorable experience.

As usual, though, we were more than up to the challenge, and the customer’s glowing review is testament to the great customer service we provide here at First Encounters Bristol. In her testimonial, the soon-to-be mum praises our clinic staff (“the staff made me feel very relaxed”) and states that she will happily recommend First Encounters to any friends thinking of booking their own 3D/4D scan.

She was also very pleased with the images we were able to capture:

“The baby was being a bit difficult and the staff were very patient. We went in three times and managed to get some lovely photos of her face. We took them straight ‘round to show them to my mother- and father-in-law. They were so happy and amazed to see the photos.”

All of us at First Encounters Bristol would like to extend a huge thank-you to this customer for sending us this review. It’s always immensely satisfying to hear that people are impressed with our services, as we do our very best to deliver top-quality results in a relaxed and stress-free atmosphere.

Browse our scan package options to see what kind of baby bonding experiences we can offer you, or click here to see more details about our clinic in Bristol.

Have you visited our Bristol clinic? Review us on Google!
 
If you’re looking for the ultimate ultrasound experience in Bristol and the South West, then look no further than our state-of-the-art baby scan clinic in Portishead. Thanks to its convenient location just 2 miles away from the M5, it’s easily accessible from a number of different areas, providing customers with easy access to our wonderful range of services. 
 
From 4D ultrasounds to gender and wellbeing scans, we offer a fantastic selection of packages at our Bristol clinic, with options to suit every requirement and budget. To ensure that each of our customers has a pleasant and memorable experience, our scan rooms are softly lit and comfortably furnished, for a cosy, relaxing atmosphere. For those who would like to share this special experience with their loved ones, we also provide seating for up to six guests, allowing you to enjoy their companionship without the room feeling cramped or crowded.
 
 
As well as providing a friendly and relaxing service, staff at our Bristol ultrasound clinic also do their very best to provide you with a high-quality image of your baby, using the most advanced ultrasound imaging machine available, for unequalled levels of clarity. They also have years of experience in the industry and are highly qualified, which means that they will be able to answer any questions that you may have, while providing you with expert guidance.
 
 
For those who are thinking of booking an ultrasound at our Bristol clinic, here are some reviews from our previous customers:
 
"Heard how good it was through a friend, fab to be on a bank holiday so family and partner can come and not have to take time off work, thank you"
Natasha, Weston Super Mare
Deluxe4dPlus at 27 weeks
 
"The packages displayed online were very clear and played a huge part in choosing First Encounters, it was brilliant, thanks again"
Kimberley, Bristol
genderAssurePlus at 16 weeks
 
"Recommended by a friend, excellent, kind, friendly and professional"
Kiesha, Weston Super Mare
Deluxe4DPlus at 27 weeks
 
Have you had an ultrasound scan at our Bristol clinic? We’d love to hear about your experience! Post your review here.
 
If you would like to book an ultrasound scan at our Bristol clinic you can: