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Baby Gender
 
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.

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

While we often place a great deal of emphasis on the unique and moving experience our scans provide for expectant parents, our ultrasound packages are designed to offer a unique insight into your baby’s world for all the family, including children.

If you’ve already started a family, you’ll no doubt want your child to be able to experience the excitement of your pregnancy, allowing them to form a close bond with their little brother or sister before they arrive! Luckily, our ultrasound scans give you the perfect opportunity to share this beautiful bonding memory with your child, either during or following the scan.

Here’s why First Encounters Ultrasound is the perfect choice for expectant parents and their children:
  • Give your child a detailed glimpse of their unborn sibling. Your child will naturally be rather curious about their new sibling, and a 3D/4D scan gives them an incredible opportunity to see their future brother or sister for the first time, in strikingly clear imagery. If you would prefer not to have your child with you when the scan itself takes place, we offer a variety of souvenirs that will allow you to share this important memory with them in the comfort of your own home.

  • Enjoy our comfortable, spacious surroundings. Our scan rooms are able to accommodate up to six guests, which means that there will be more than enough room for you and your child(ren) during the procedure. The spacious size and relaxing atmosphere of our clinics are ideal for small children, who may find themselves becoming bored or impatient in a small, stuffy space.

  • Take home our child-friendly gifts. As well as having a detailed image of your little one to share with your child, you will also have the opportunity to present them with one of our adorable scan gifts! For £20 you can record your baby’s heartbeat onto one of our cute and cuddly Heartbeat Bears, providing a sentimental keepsake and a treasured companion for your child.

  • Find out whether it’s a brother or a sister! Many of our scan packages offer you the opportunity to discover your unborn baby’s gender, which means that your child will also be able to find out whether they are having a little brother or sister. Again, this will give them a unique glimpse into the baby’s world, and will allow them to share in your excitement as you discover the happy news.
Click here to view our scan packages and book your ultrasound experience online!
We’re often asked how early in a pregnancy we are able to offer our 3D ultrasound packages. This comes as no surprise; after all, we realise that many expectant parents are eager to get that breathtaking first glimpse of their unborn child!


If you’re keen to receive an early glimpse of your baby, we offer our 4DgenderAssure™ scan from 20 weeks gestation, giving you the chance to discover your baby’s gender and view live footage for the first time. As part of the package, you will first view live 2D images of your baby, before being shown some incredible 3D/4D imagery of your growing child on our plasma screen.

Not only will you be given the chance to discover your child’s gender in a relaxing and warm environment, you will also be able to chart how your baby’s health and wellness is developing, as our sonographers calculate their growth, position and other details about your child.

If you’re eager to experience this bonding and reassurance process as soon as possible, the 20 week 3D ultrasound scan is certainly your best option. However, if you’re willing to wait a little longer, you’ll be rewarded for your patience; we recommend 25-29 weeks as the optimum time to undergo a 3D scan.

The reason we recommend 25-29 weeks is due to the simple fact that this stage in the baby’s development tends to produce the best images. The foetus is not only more fully-developed at this stage, it also still has room for movement, making it far easier to get a view that will create a moving first impression. Another benefit of waiting just a little longer is that you will have access to a broader range of scan packages, which provides you with an extended range of options while allowing you to have a more personal and memorable experience.

Our ultimate goal here at First Encounters is to cater to the needs and expectations of expectant mothers and their families on a personal, non-generalised basis. Whether you wish to receive your scan early or would like to wait until further along in your pregnancy, we will try our very best to make the experience as relaxing and memorable as possible. We will also strive to produce the highest quality image, presenting you with a precious memento to treasure forever.

For more information about our range of scan packages, please click here.