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Knowing when to take a pregnancy test to get the most accurate results can be difficult. If you are trying to get pregnant then you want to know as soon as possible! If you suspect you are unknowingly pregnant, confirming or disproving this is a priority.

When can I expect the most accurate results?

It is recommended that you wait one week until after you miss your expected period to achieve the most accurate result.

If I don’t want to wait?

If you can’t wait this long, it is recommended that you allow one to two weeks after you have had sex for detectable levels of HCG to build up in your system. Sensitive home pregnancy tests claim to be able to confirm pregnancy as early as 8 days after conception and can offer an estimation of when you conceived based on the amount of HCG present in your urine.

Be aware that the levels of HCG produced throughout pregnancy vary from woman to woman, so do not be disheartened by an early negative result if you are trying to conceive, you may still be pregnant!

If you or a friend has recently become pregnant, why not book in for an earlyAssure™ scan? This reassurance and dating scan can be conducted at any time following your initial NHS scan and focuses on the development and wellbeing of your little one.


Back in February last year, a debate about choosing your baby’s gender was sparked by Chrissy Tiegen and John Legend revealing that they choose for their baby, Luna, to be born a girl. Understandably, this led many parents-to-be to question how this was possible and if they could do the same.
 
To answer the question: yes, choosing your baby’s gender is now possible due to the introduction of Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). However, this only becomes an option to couples under certain circumstances. The gender selection procedure only becomes available to couples who want to avoid passing sex-linked genetic disorders onto their children, such as Haemophilia in males and Rett Syndrome in females. 
 
However, in some circumstances, it becomes available to parents who would also like to ‘balance’ their family by having a child of each gender. Hormone tests are also run to check the client’s fertility and age limits are sometimes implemented. Some clinics will not consider clients unless they are married or already have at least one child of the opposite sex they’re trying for.

Methods of Gender Selection


The most accurate methods of choosing your baby’s gender can be very expensive and typically mean the mother-to-be has to undergo invasive infertility treatments, alongside taking fertility drugs with potential side effects. 

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is one of the main procedures which allows gender selection. IVF is a method of fertilization outside of the womb, starting with a round of fertility drugs which help your ovaries create more than the natural amount of eggs (typically one per month). In an IVF procedure, the patient is placed under anesthetic before the doctor inserts an ultra sound probe through the vagina to check the ovaries and follicles. A thin needle is then inserted through the vagina wall to remove the eggs from the follicles.

The next step is for the extracted eggs to be fertilized in a Petri dish. Once the eggs become embryos after 3-5 days, they are inserted back into the patient’s uterus. If you’re younger than 35 and your embryos are healthy, no more than two are usually transferred.

 

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and Preimplantation Genetic Screening


The baby gender selection process happens during the IVF procedure, where one or two cells are removed from the embryo and tested for genetic or chromosomal disorders. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) can be used to screen the embryos and predict the baby’s gender. Parents who are hoping to avoid gender-linked disorders usually opt for PGD as the test exposes any underlying conditions the baby may have. By changing the gender of the baby, the prospective parents hope to avoid this disorder. 
 
Preimplantation Genetic Screening is typically used by patients to check if their baby has down syndrome, or are hoping to ‘balance’ their family. Both tests are almost 100% accurate at determining the gender of the baby, and any remaining embryos are frozen so they can be used in the future if the couple decides to make more children.
 
The advancement of science truly is something to marvel at, but as these methods can be expensive and invasive, waiting to find out the gender of your child can be just as exciting. Wondering what your baby will be is one of the most magical parts of carrying a child and the long awaited day of the gender reveal is a milestone in the pregnancy. Here at First Encounters, we offer gender scans from just 16 weeks, so you don’t have to wait too long either. 

The earlyAssure™ option is a scan package we offer to parents who may be worried about the pregnancy as it can identify potential issues with the baby from as early as 8 weeks. Click here to find out more information and book your earlyAssure™ scan.
If you've recently become pregnant for the first time, you no doubt have a million and one questions to ask about the experience that lies ahead. However, if we had to guess the single most common query amongst mothers-to-be, it would probably be this:

Which foods should I avoid while I'm pregnant?

It's only natural to worry about the ways in which your diet might adversely affect the child you're carrying, but there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding this topic. Since we've already tackled the topic of whether or not a pregnant woman should imbibe alcohol, today we'd like to talk about food; not only will this short guide tell you which foods to steer clear of during pregnancy, it will also bust a few myths and highlight the foods that, in spite of what some people say, you can safely consume without putting your unborn baby at risk.

Foods to avoid

First of all, here's a quick list of foods that you definitely shouldn't eat when you're pregnant:
  • Raw eggs (and dishes that contained raw/undercooked eggs). Eggs should be cooked thoroughly before consumption to prevent salmonella.

  • Raw or undercooked meat. This includes cured meats (unless they have been cooked beforehand), as well as rare steak. Do not eat meat if any part of the meat is still pink, or if there is any trace of blood.

  • Certain soft cheeses. Anything with a white rind (e.g. brie) or blue veins (e.g. gorgonzola) should be avoided, unless the cheese has been cooked thoroughly before consumption.

  • Certain types of fish (the NHS recommends that pregnant women avoid eating shark, marlin and swordfish).

  • Raw shellfish. Ensure that any shellfish you consume during your pregnancy has been cooked properly first.

  • Unpasteurised milk.

  • Pâté (even if it doesn't contain any meat).

  • Liver (and dishes that contain liver).

  • Unwashed fruit/vegetables. Make sure that any soil has been washed off your fruit/veg before you eat it.

  • Certain vitamin supplements. Be sure to avoid fish liver oil supplements and vitamin A supplements in particular.

Foods you can eat

Listed below are some foods that are often said to be potentially harmful if consumed during pregnancy. All of them are, in fact, safe to eat when pregnant; however, please pay careful attention to the advice given alongside each item, as some of these foods can cause problems for you and your baby if prepared incorrectly or eaten too regularly.
  • Most types of fish and shellfish are OK to eat if they have been cooked properly. You can eat uncooked fish too, as long as it has been frozen before consumption (this will generally include sushi sold at supermarkets - if in doubt, stick to sushi that contains only cooked fish and vegetables). Tuna and other oily fish can be enjoyed in moderation; we recommend visiting the NHS Choices website for more information on how much tuna/oily fish you can safely eat while pregnant.

  • Yoghurt is safe as long as it was made using pasteurised milk. The same is true of ice cream.

  • Venison and other game should only be avoided if the animal was shot using lead bullets. Speak to the supplier if you're unsure where the meat came from.

  • Liquorice may be eaten freely during pregnancy.

  • Caffeine may be consumed during pregnancy; however, it is recommended that you do not exceed 200g of caffeine a day.

  • Green tea can be enjoyed in moderation - limit yourself to no more than 4 cups a day, and bear in mind that each cup will count towards your daily caffeine limit too (see above).

Click here for more blog posts about pregnancy, or visit our Scan Packages page to browse the scan options available from First Encounters Ultrasound.
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:

Sally Wood
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!

Anne Hathaway
Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway (pictured above) is expecting her first child with husband Adam Shulman, who she married in 2012.

Rose Byrne
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.

Giovanna Fletcher
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’.

Kim Sears
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 
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!

For more news and information about pregnancy and ultrasound scans, follow us on Twitter!
Wine glasses

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:

Risks

  • 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.

Contributing Factors

  • 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.

For more pregnancy advice and updates about our ultrasound scans, follow us on Twitter.