For many women, the ultrasound scan is a stand-out moment of pregnancy, providing the mother with the very first glimpses of their new addition in the making.

It’s an exciting time for mothers-to-be but can also be a daunting prospect for those experiencing first-time pregnancies.

To help put your mind at ease and prepare you for what to expect, here’s a handy overview of a typical baby scan schedule during pregnancy.

8 to 14-week scan

Also known as a dating scan, the first scan of your baby is carried out between week 8 and week 14 of the pregnancy.

This will typically take place at your local hospital in the ultrasound department, performed by a trained sonographer. The scan itself usually lasts around 30 minutes or less.

During the scan process, a number of key facts are identified, including the due date and confirmation of twins, triplets, etc.

If your dating scan takes place between weeks 11 and 13, the sonographer will also commonly perform the first part of the combined test to screen for Down’s, Edward’s and Patau’s syndromes.

This is called the nuchal translucent scan (NT scan) and involves largely the same processes as the standard dating scan.

18 to 20-week scan

Despite being commonly referred to as a “20-week scan”, the second scan can actually take place anywhere between 18 and 20 weeks.

It’s also known as a mid-pregnancy scan due to the fact that it takes place right in the middle of the average length of pregnancy (40 weeks).

Another name for the 20-week scan is an anomaly scan, as the primary purpose of this screening is to ensure your baby is developing as it should be.

32-week scan

Sometimes, the positioning of the placenta at 20 weeks can make it difficult for the sonographer to take accurate measurements of your baby’s development. This is typically due to the placenta overlapping the cervix.

If this is the case, you’ll be booked in for a follow-up scan at 32 weeks. By this time the placenta should have naturally moved out of the way, allowing for an unobstructed scan to take place.

42-week scan

By the time you reach the 42-week mark, you will have likely reached the end of your pregnancy and, hopefully, have a healthy new-born baby on your hands.

However, in the event that you haven’t gone in to labour by this point and have opted against induction, you will be offered regular monitoring.

This will involve additional ultrasound scans to check everything is okay within the womb and ensure no issues have developed.

Baby scans with First Encounters

Outside of the standard baby scan schedule routinely carried out by the NHS, First Encounters offers expecting parents the ultimate peace of mind with our own specialist scans over the course of your pregnancy.

Providing advanced details, reassuring facts and general progress updates of your baby’s development through pregnancy, these scans can be scheduled at any point throughout the pregnancy, from 8 weeks all the way up to full-term.

Reassurance Scans

Offering additional information for those looking to put their mind at rest, our Reassurance Scans are specifically designed to provide you with real-time facts and details about your baby prior to and outside of NHS appointments. 

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Gender Scans

For the ultimate gender reveal experience, First Encounters provides you with everything you need for your gender revelation plans, including a comprehensive scan as well as gender reveal props, should you wish to find out the sex at a later date in private. This gender identification service is available as early as 16 weeks.

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4D Bonding & Reassurance Scans

Available as early as 18 weeks, our 4D scans offer a truly awe-inspiring glimpse at your growing baby using state of the art technology, providing 3D imagery, video footage and real-life audio of your baby in the womb.

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When to Scan with First Encounters?

Naturally, if you opted for every scan available, your baby scan schedule would likely take up the majority of your pregnancy, not to mention the fact you would also be re-covering old ground unnecessarily.

As such, wisely choosing your First Encounters scans to complement your NHS appointments can be a sensible and enjoyable way to safely monitor your baby’s progression and experience your pregnancy to its fullest.

You may want to opt for an earlyAssure scan to put your mind at rest in the early stages of pregnancy and then return to First Encounters later on for a 4D scan to commemorate the occasion.

Meanwhile, you may wish to opt for the secretGender package to set up your own gender reveal party with friends and family on your own time.

Whichever option you choose, you won’t be disappointed. First Encounters offers a service unlike any other, combining specialist monitoring and professional service for unrivalled peace of mind and pregnancy commemoration.

For more information on our services or expert advice on which option is best for you, call today on 02920 732671 or get in touch online using the enquiry below.

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Food cravings are something that almost every pregnant woman will experience. From takeaways to sweets to dairy products, there will always be something that they need to satisfy a sudden urge. Many questions surround pregnancy food cravings, however, such as why do they occur, how can you control them and when do they actually start? All of which will be revealed right here, so if you’re experiencing pregnancy food craving or know someone who is and want to get the low-down, carry on reading!

 

What causes pregnancy cravings?

One of the most commonly asked questions regarding pregnancy food craving is how do they actually occur? Well, truth is, there isn’t a definitive answer to what causes them, but a number of reasons have been thought up as potential explanations.  Most experts agree that food cravings evolutionary, that it’s your body sending signals to your brain and taste buds of what it needs. This could be a result of rapidly changing hormones because your body is working extra hard to produce a lot more blood or simply because certain foods make you feel comfortable as your body is changing.

When do pregnancy cravings begin?

For the majority of women, pregnancy cravings begin in the first trimester, peak during the second trimester and start to decline through their third trimester. Doctors say however that few cravings tend to carry on after childbirth, so if you’re worried about cravings being a permanent thing, they most likely will not.

Food aversions – What are they?

Food aversions are just as apparent with pregnant women as food cravings. These are the opposite, however, and can produce some equally unusual feelings. Both food cravings and aversions tend to start around the same time. Experts in psychology state that food cravings may not have anything to with the feeling of morning sickness, but staying away from certain foods does. The most common food that is avoided by women during pregnancy is meat, claims that the sight, smell and texture can be too much to handle. The reason behind this, researchers say, is because meat sometimes carries bacteria that is capable of making mother and baby sick, as a way of protection, the body makes meat seem unappetising.

The most common cravings

Many cravings are harmless and have a personal touch involved, whether it’s food that was eaten as a child or something you tried once and loved. Some, however, are straight up bizarre but are commonly accepted among most pregnant women. The most commonly reported food cravings are:

  • Takeaways such as Chinese or pizza
  • Cream cheese with ketchup
  • Sweets
  • Pickles & ice cream
  • Chocolate

All of these cravings are okay to have occasionally as long as they’re eaten in moderation. Try to avoid consuming unhealthier foods often as too much can cause excessive weight gains and problems such as dental issues.

Tips for avoiding food cravings

  • Plenty of rest – Research shows that people who lack sufficient sleep tend to crave unhealthy foods more than healthy foods
  • Don’t food shop when hungry
  • Eat at regular intervals to prevent feelings of hunger
  • Eat healthy, low glycaemic index (GI) foods that will keep you feeling fuller for longer such as wholegrain bread, fresh fruit and baked beans.

When to seek help

Some cravings can be dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. If and when these occur, the best thing to do is to visit a doctor to receive professional advice. Pica is a potentially poisonous condition, that urges pregnant women to compulsively eat foods with no nutritional value such as soap, dirt or dry paint. Cravings such as these, along with alcohol and drugs can cause danger and harm to both yourself and your baby.

If you have any questions regarding pregnancy cravings or want to find out more information in relation to your pregnancy, please contact a professional as soon as possible. Please visit our scan packages page below to learn about all the baby ultrascans that we provide and to book yours today! 

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Pregnancy Symptoms

If you've recently become pregnant, you're probably wondering what's in store for you over the next 9 months!

To make sure you have all the details you'll need throughout your pregnancy, we've made a week-by-week list of all the most common pregnancy symptoms. Please note that every pregnancy is different, and some people may experience certain symptoms earlier or later than others (if at all), so please don't worry if your own pregnancy doesn't perfectly match the list below.

 

5 Weeks Pregnant

This is a very common time for women to find out that they are pregnant. This is a very early stage, so don't be surprised if you aren't experiencing any pregnancy symptoms just yet.

However, you may experience:

  • Fatigue - Your body is embarking on a journey that requires a lot of energy, so even at 5 weeks, you may develop a sudden fondness for naps.

  • Frequent Urination - At 5 weeks, your kidneys are beginning to expand, so you might find yourself making more trips to the loo than usual!

 

7 Weeks Pregnant

You're almost two months in, and it's probably starting to feel a little more real. That being said, it's not unusual to have few (if any) symptoms at 7 weeks - remember, it's still relatively early in your pregnancy.

Some people experience the following symptoms around the 7-week mark:

  • Acne - Your hormones are all over the place right now, so breakouts are completely normal. Just make sure you check with your doctor before using any skin treatments to combat your spots.

  • Cravings - Are you craving foods that you wouldn't normally eat? Or perhaps an old favourite seems strangely unappealing all of a sudden? This is a normal pregnancy symptom, which usually comes paired with morning sickness. Speaking of which...

  • Nausea - The dreaded morning sickness! In spite of its common name, the feeling of nausea can sadly strike at any time of day. You may experience just a touch of nausea, or you may actually vomit - in either case, this is a common side effect of pregnancy at around 7 weeks and probably isn't anything to worry about.

 

9 Weeks Pregnant

After nine or ten weeks, you'll probably have experienced most of the pregnancy symptoms that tend to strike during the first trimester. In addition to the symptoms listed above, you may now notice:

  • Headaches - Your hormones are still surging, and this can lead to headaches (which can also be brought on by hunger, dehydration and exhaustion - so make sure you're getting plenty of food, water and rest).

  • Nasal Congestion - This is perhaps one of pregnancy's lesser-known side effects. By this stage, you may well notice an increase in your body's mucus production.

  • Breast Tenderness - Your body is prepping for breast feeding and blood flow to this area is increasing, often leading to breast tenderness.

 

12 Weeks Pregnant

Week twelve is the final week of your first trimester. Your baby has now grown from a tiny cluster of cells into a foetus, and your uterus will be starting to expand beyond your pelvic bones. In addition to all of the symptoms we've already discussed, you may now be experiencing:

  • Dizzy Spells - Those pesky hormones - particularly when coupled with changes in blood pressure - may cause you to feel dizzy. Make sure you sit down or rest during dizzy spells, and always eat/drink regularly to keep your energy up!

  • Pelvic Pain - As your uterus expands, you may experience some aches and pains. It is best to avoid any heavy exercise and be thoughtful about how you position yourself - you don't want to put any unnecessary stress on sensitive regions.

 

From Here on Out...

As you head into your second trimester, your pregnancy symptoms should become less erratic. Now you can look forward to your bump getting bigger and the baby starting to kick. You will probably continue to experience some aches and pains, and you should continue to go for regular check-ups to make sure that you and your baby-to-be are both healthy.

Here are a few milestone moments to look out for later in your pregnancy journey:

  • 13-15 Weeks Pregnant: This is generally the point at which you'll need to purchase maternity clothes. Of course, you may want to buy it earlier just for the comfort it provides!

  • 20-25 Weeks Pregnant: It's around this time that you'll start to feel your baby kicking. Again, every pregnancy is different, so don't worry too much if you have to wait a bit longer.

  • Approaching Due Date: Few women actually give birth on their exact due date. Nonetheless, it's an important date, and its passing signifies that your new baby will be with you very soon!

 

If you're 8-13 weeks pregnant, why not book an earlyAssure™ scan with First Encounters? We also offer 3D/4D scans for when you're a little further along and you're ready to see what your little one looks like!

Our clinics are located in Bristol and Cardiff.

Image from pixabay.com

Heartburn During Pregnancy

 

Why Have I Got Heartburn During Pregnancy?

 

As your baby develops you may find that it is more than just your desire to meet them that’s burning. Heartburn during pregnancy is a frequent occurrence and can be recognised by a burning sensation that resides all the way from your breastbone to your lower throat. Many mothers experience heartburn for the first time during pregnancy and although it is quite uncomfortable, it is usually harmless. The reason heartburn occurs so frequently during pregnancy is due to the placenta producing the hormone progesterone. 

 
Progesterone is usually your friend throughout pregnancy, helping to prevent miscarriages through thickening the uterine lining, and promoting your natural health by reminding you to provide nutrients for your baby. However, this does not mean that progesterone won’t cause you pain from time to time. 
 
As it relaxes the muscles of the uterus and the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach, it also allows gastric acids to flow back up to the oesophagus, causing the nasty burning sensation. Your wiggling baby also contributes to your heartburn by placing pressure on the stomach and increasing the chance of acids being pushed into the oesophagus.

What Can I Do to Stop My Heartburn? 

 

1. Find out what triggers it

 
The first thing you can do is make a note each time you have heartburn of what you’ve previously had to eat or drink. Certain foods tend to directly impact heartburn during pregnancy, such as acidic foods, greasy foods, spicy foods, caffeine, fizzy drinks and chocolate. If you can figure out what is causing your heartburn, you can try to eliminate it from your diet and relieve the pain. 

2. Try to avoid big meals

 
Big meals increase the chance of heartburn, as food does not digest as well or move as quickly during pregnancy. It is better to eat several small meals throughout the day, taking your time to eat and chewing thoroughly. 

3. Take care when you sleep

 
Keeping your upper body elevated while you sleep can help stop your stomach acids from reaching the oesophagus. Try to also avoid eating anything 3 hours before bedtime, as this decreases the chance of the stomach acids reaching you even further. 

4. Try chewing gum

 
After eating, chewing gum helps eliminate heartburn during pregnancy. This is due to the chewing motion producing saliva which can help neutralise the acid. 

5. Over-the-counter help

 
If all else fails, any over-the-counter antacid which contains magnesium or calcium may help relieve you of the pain. However, you should first check with your prenatal nurse before taking anything to ensure that it is safe for you during pregnancy. 

 
If your heartburn during pregnancy continues to persist after these methods, be sure to contact your health care provider to see if there are any prescription medicines you can take to help you. Be sure to contact them immediately if you spit up blood or have dark-coloured bowel movements as this is a sign of blood in your digestive tract. We hope these tips help you relieve some of the pain and enjoy every moment of your pregnancy!
 
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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!