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 our ultrasound clinic in  Cardiff. All of our 4D scans now use HD Live technology as standard.
 
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!
 

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.