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.
Ultrasound scan
 
There are many different ultrasound scan packages available to pregnant women nowadays, and this variety can sometimes cause confusion. Every scan is of course different, but above all else, it’s important to understand the distinction between elective ultrasound scans and medical ultrasound scans.
 

What is the difference between medical and elective scans?

Simply put, a medical ultrasound scan is one that’s ordered by a doctor/midwife, while an elective ultrasound scan is one that you choose to undergo yourself. Medical scans are generally available for free on the NHS, whereas elective (or ‘keepsake’) scans will be delivered by private companies who charge a fee for the services they provide.
 
Most women in the UK undergo two medical ultrasound scans as standard over the course of a pregnancy; these scans are intended to track the baby’s growth/development, calculate a due date, and identify any anomalies that may be present.
 
In addition to these two scans, a pregnant woman may choose to undergo one or more elective ultrasound scans over the course of her pregnancy.
 

Why book an elective ultrasound scan?

Reasons for choosing to undergo an elective ultrasound scan vary from person to person. Here are some examples of what a keepsake scan can provide:
  • High quality 3D/4D imaging. Medical scans generally result in 2D images only. Some elective ultrasound scans give the expectant parents a closer, more detailed look at their unborn child - some of our customers are even treated to the sigh of their baby-to-be smiling and waving!
  • Early gender confirmation. While medical scans can provide gender confirmation (i.e. whether your baby will be a boy or a girl), many elective scan providers allow their customers to discover this information several weeks earlier. Our gender scans start at 16 weeks.

  • Additional information. Attending an elective ultrasound session in addition to your NHS scans will allow you to track your baby’s growth over a longer timeframe. We may also spot problems/anomalies that develop after you’ve been to the hospital.

  • Keepsakes and souvenirs. Most elective scan providers offer a wide variety of gifts and souvenirs, which can be taken home after the scan and shared with family and friends. Common examples include glossy photographs, DVD recordings, key rings, and fridge magnets; we at First Encounters also offer the ever-popular Heartbeat Bear!
 
An elective ultrasound scan should NEVER be used as a substitute for a medical scan. Instead, elective scans are intended to complement the scans provided by the NHS, giving you an enjoyable experience and allowing you to feel that much closer to your unborn child.
 
Compare Our Scan Packages                                                         Visit Our FAQs Page For More Info
 
Here's a question we often hear:
 
"Do I have to visit your clinic for my ultrasound scan? Can you come to me instead?"
 
It's not hard to imagine why a mum-to-be might prefer to undergo an ultrasound scan in the comfort of her own home. After all, pregnancy can make it quite difficult to get around (particularly for those who don't drive - we can probably all agree that sitting at home and waiting for the sonographer to knock is a far more enticing proposition than standing around at a bus stop!)
 
But while we understand why people ask this question, the answer - sadly - is no, we don't recommend undergoing an ultrasound scan at home. There are a number of reasons why we at First Encounters Ultrasound don't offer home ultrasound scans, including the following:
  • Our clinics are hygienic, comfortable, and fit for purpose. There's no way of ensuring that each customer's home will meet these crucial requirements.

  • Our equipment is not mobile. We at First Encounters are proud to use the very best ultrasound devices currently on the market (including HD Live). While our state-of-the-art equipment is ideal for producing top-quality images, it sadly isn't very portable, meaning that we would not be able to offer the same high standard if we operated outside of our own premises.
However, there's another, even more important reason why we don't offer home ultrasound scans: industry regulation. In England, our work is strictly regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and since their standards don't account for home visits, we would lose our CQC-approved status if we started offering this service.
 
Interestingly, Health Inspectorate Wales (HIW, the Welsh equivalent of the CQC) actually don't regulate diagnostic and screening services such as ours, which is why some companies who do offer home ultrasound scans are registered in Wales, even though they operate exclusively on the English side of the border (very shady if you ask us!) That being said, it is our own policy that our Cardiff clinic must meet the same industry standards as those located in England, and so we are unable to offer a 'mobile' service from any of our locations.
 
If you are thinking of booking an ultrasound scan, it's always better to choose a professional, regulated provider who can offer you the very highest level of service.
Browse Our Scan Packages >                                            Visit Our About Us Page >
 
If you've had a look at our Images & Videos section, you may be wondering if the examples on that page really are representative of the quality and the clarity you'll see on the screen when you come in for a 4D scan of your own. Will we be able to depict your unborn baby with that same level of detail?

3D Baby Scan

The short answer is yes, for the vast majority of scans we perform. However, 4D ultrasound scans are not an exact science, and with each and every pregnancy being so very different, the achievable results can vary for each client, thus making it very difficult to provide an airtight guarantee when it comes to the quality of the imagery we aim to capture during our 3D/4D scans. That said, we will always endeavour to obtain the very best result achievable, working with you to encourage your baby into the best possible position; however, whilst a change of position can, in most cases, be achieved with the aid of sugar stimulation, there are other factors that may affect image quality and resolution.

All ultrasound scans obtain images via the reflection of sound waves, which penetrate from the probe placed on your belly through to your baby and back again. The image then displayed is the result of this reflection. Whilst we at First Encounters Ultrasound use the latest, most advanced ultrasound technology (effectively enabling an element of image manipulation), image quality and resolution can unfortunately be impaired if the sound waves have more distance to travel, thus creating a weaker reflection and a lower-resolution image.

In some cases, a high BMI can lead to a less than perfect result; however, our own experience has also identified that, in cases of a high BMI, clearer images can be achieved when the scan is performed slightly later (between 29 and 30 weeks gestation). This is because the baby sometimes moves closer to the stomach wall, thus creating a shorter distance for the reflected sound waves to cover, resulting in a better image resolution.

The key points to remember when planning your 4D experience are as follows:
  • Your baby will require room for movement.
  • Your baby will need to be surrounded by plenty of fluid to assist the projection of imagery
In order to achieve the best possible results, we always recommend between 25 and 29 weeks as the optimum time for a 3D/4D scan. However, in the event that your baby is uncooperative on the day, a complimentary rescan will be offered on an alternative day (where appropriate, and subject to terms and conditions).

All of this being said, we'd like to say once again that unsatisfactory scans are very few and far between. The vast majority of women who come to us leave absolutely thrilled with the results of their 4D scan - if you'd like to book a scan of your own, please click here to compare the packages we offer. Alternatively, if you have any other questions to ask, feel free to give us a call on 02920 732671.
It's a big week for us here at First Encounters Ultrasound - our brand new Voluson E6 system arrived yesterday, which means that we're now able to offer HD Live ultrasound scans at our clinic in Cardiff.

HD Live Ultrasound Equipment

What is HD Live?

HD Live is the very latest in 4D ultrasound technology. It allows us to show you your unborn child in greater detail than ever before; HD Live images are far more clearly-rendered than those captured by other 3D/4D systems, giving you an even better idea of what your baby will look like when he or she finally arrives.

Furthermore, our new HD Live equipment offers an enhanced colour palette, enabling us to achieve an even greater level of realism in the images we capture:

Left: An image captured using HD Live ultrasound equipment.
Right: An image captured using standard 3D/4D ultrasound equipment.

Benefits of HD Live:

  • Clearer, crisper images of your unborn baby
  • Improved colouration of images/footage captured
  • Feel even closer to the life growing inside you

How do I book an HD Live ultrasound scan?

If you would like to book an HD Live scan at our Cardiff clinic, please give us a call on 02920 732671 or get in touch using our online contact form. A member of our team will discuss the available options with you and recommend an HD Live scan package based on how far along your pregnancy is and what you wish to receive.

At present, HD Live scans are only available from the First Encounters Ultrasound clinic in Cardiff. However, we plan to roll out this technology in our Bristol clinic in the near future, so please stay tuned for further announcements on that front.