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Attending a 4D ultrasound scan and seeing your baby's face for the first time is a breathtaking experience, and it's one that you'll no doubt be eager to share with your nearest and dearest. Our customers are already able to keep the footage from their scans in the form of DVD recordings, but from April onwards, you'll have the option to take home your scan video on a USB stick instead!

Ultrasound USB Stick

How it works

When you book one of our DVD-inclusive scan packages (listed at the end of this post), you'll be given the option to upgrade to a USB stick for an additional £10 fee. This option will be available from the 1st of April 2016 onwards. 

At the end of your scan, instead of receiving a souvenir DVD, you will be given a branded First Encounters USB stick (as pictured above) containing your scan footage in the form of an MP4 video file.

Please note that, if you choose to upgrade to a USB stick, you will NOT get a DVD as well. You will receive your USB stick instead of a DVD recording, not in addition to it.

Why choose a USB stick over a DVD recording?

We have decided to start offering our customers USB sticks as an alternative to DVDs for a number of reasons. Firstly, we are noticing that fewer and fewer people actually own DVD players, and we feel that the USB option will allow a larger number of people to rewatch their scan footage at home.

Other benefits include:
  • Easier sharing. Once you have taken your USB stick home, you will be able to share the video file with friends and relatives all over the world, either via email or on social media websites (e.g. Facebook).

  • TV compatibility. No DVD player? No problem! Most televisions now come with USB ports - simply plug the First Encounters USB stick into your telly and gather everyone in the living room for a very special screening!

  • Durability. DVDs get damaged quite easily - our USB sticks (and the video files they contain) are far less likely to be rendered unwatchable by an accidental scratch or scuff!

USB sticks will be available with the following ultrasound scan packages from the 1st of April:
We've heard a lot about the Zika virus over the past few weeks, due to a recent outbreak in Brazil which has since prompted serious questions about the impact of the infection. While it's been rather common in certain African and Asian countries for many years, it's only since the infection has spread to Brazil that the western world has began to show concern regarding its impact. 

While for the most part the infection is largely symptom-free, presenting no lasting harm to those who become infected, the outbreak in Brazil has led to concerns that Zika could be linked to microcephaly in infants, causing them to be born with unusually small heads. 

If you are currently pregnant, or planning to become pregnant in the near future, here are a few things you should know about the Zika virus and its impact on unborn children:

Does Zika cause brain damage?

While the evidence linking microcephaly to Zika is largely circumstantial, there was a clear surge in the amount of babies being born with the disease during the outbreak, which would suggest that Zika is, in fact, the cause. As for the issue of microcephaly itself, in around fifteen percent of cases it accounts for the physical impact (i.e. reduced head size) only, while in the remainder of cases it can prevent proper brain development. 

Which countries present the highest risk?

Countries in South America are naturally at risk due to their proximity to Brazil, as are those in which the virus was already prevalent, such as Kenya, Egypt, India and more. The most up-to-date information on which countries pose a risk can be found here.

What should I do if I've visited a high-risk country?

Aside from rare exceptions, the virus does not linger in the body, and once you have recovered from the infection you will become immune. This means that this risks for women who have previously visited the country before getting pregnant are very low. Despite this, if you have visited the at-risk countries whilst pregnant (or during the early stages of conception), you should most certainly seek medical advice and get your blood tested. You should also get an ultrasound scan to check that your baby is developing properly, although evidence can not be detected until the end of the second trimester.

Should I worry about Zika if I'm trying to conceive?

As mentioned above, Zika is particularly dangerous in the early stages of pregnancy, which means that those looking to conceive should avoid visiting the countries which are most at risk. Those who are not trying to get pregnant are also being warned to be diligent with their birth control routine, in order to avoid an unplanned pregnancy with a high risk of complications. There has also been some evidence to suggest that it is possible to transmit the virus via sexual intercourse, which means that those with partners who have also recently returned from one of the affected areas should also exercise caution.

How can I avoid infection?

Travellers to high-risk countries should attempt to avoid infection by avoiding or minimising their contact with mosquitoes, taking precautions such as wearing long clothing and sleeping under mosquito nets. Sadly, there is no way to completely avoid infection if you are in these countries during pregnancy or at the time of conception, which is why pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant women are encouraged to avoid high-risk locations altogether.

For more pregnancy news and advice, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
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.

There is very little in life that compares to the very special feeling and excitement that comes with being pregnant. Undergoing an ultrasound scan, keeping track of your baby’s development, and watching them grow can provide very special bonding moments for a couple that’s expecting.  

In addition to providing these special moments for new families, scans can also pick up potential health issues and warning signs that can be caught by attending private scans in addition to the usual 8-14 week NHS Scan. Your baby’s health is our main priority here at First Encounters, so all of our sonographers are fully trained to identify any potential health issues during your scan.  

During every scan, we perform some essential checks to ensure that your baby is growing and developing at a healthy rate. Firstly, we measure your baby’s growth in the womb and compare this to the average for how far along you are. If your baby is significantly smaller or larger than average, this can indicate a problem; if your baby appears small, then this could mean that your baby is not growing properly. This can be because your baby is not getting the oxygen it needs to thrive. There are many reasons as to why this can be, such as abnormalities in the placenta, medical conditions, or the fact that you are carrying twins.  If one of our sonographers identifies this to be an issue, we will inform you immediately and refer you to a hospital if we feel that this is necessary. 

Secondly, we will measure your amniotic fluid levels. When you are pregnant, your growing baby is protected inside an amniotic sac within your womb. This sac is filled with fluid to protect your baby from harm if your tummy is bumped or squashed while you are pregnant. The amount of amniotic fluid increases throughout your pregnancy; however, if your baby is smaller than expected for the date, it could be because you have low fluid levels. 

Our sonographer will check your fluid levels, and if we find any abnormalities, we will refer you to a hospital to get a professional medical opinion. 

As well as determining the due date and the gender of your baby, private pregnancy scans are designed to reassure you that you and your baby are developing well, and that there are no issues throughout your pregnancy.  A private scan should NEVER be used as a substitute for a standard hospital scan, but undergoing a private scan in addition to your NHS scans can alert sonographers to potential health issues that were not present (or visible) at first. 

Click here to book your pregnancy scan with First Encounters. For more news and advice about your pregnancy, follow First Encounters on Twitter

If you decide to learn your baby’s gender before the birth, as many expectant parents do, it can be a fantastic excuse to celebrate your good news with all your friends and family! Increasingly, we are seeing that customers who come for our gender reveal scans are thinking up new and interesting ways of sharing the news with their family, which go further than the traditional announcement.

Hosting a gender reveal party can be a fun and creative way to share your big news with your loved ones, and will allow you to create a lasting and memorable experience for all those who go on to be a part of your child’s life.

To help you plan the perfect gender reveal party, here are a few ideas to help make it a success:

Colour Code Your Décor to Add to the Mystery

From cakes and drinks to balloons and banners, cover your chosen venue with a selection of pink and blue accessories to keep them guessing up until the big reveal! 

Hand out Gender Reveal Cards

While there are lots of creative ways to announce your news, we love these interactive and exciting gender reveal cards! Not only do they allow each individual to find out the gender for themselves, but they also add an element of eagerness and anticipation to the process as they scratch to reveal the gender. Get all your guests together and hand them out one by one, to ensure that everyone scratches at the same time!

Plan Your Party in Accordance With Your Scan, and Give People Plenty of Notice!

It’s important to give your guests plenty of notice in advance of the party, so that you can ensure that all the loved-ones are able to make it. You should also time this reveal correctly in relation to your gender scan, and ensure that you have confirmation of your appointment before rushing in to planning the reveal. On very rare occasions, the position of your baby may cause difficulties with establishing a confident gender confirmation, and in such cases we offer our customers a free rescan on an alternative date. Although it is very rare that we are unable to establish your baby’s gender during your initial scan, it is worth keeping this possibility (however unlikely) in mind when planning your reveal.

Award Prizes to Guests Who Guess Right

While it’s only natural that your friends and family will be speculating about the gender of your little one before you reveal the news, the occasion will be even more entertaining if you add a competitive and speculative exercise for them to participate in. Ask everyone to note their predictions before the reveal, then hand out little keepsakes or prizes to those who guess right. If you don’t want to fork out for multiple prizes, then why not have each guest pop their name into either a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ hat, after which a name will be pulled out at random from the one labelled with the correct gender to reveal the winner!

Make Sweet, Personalised Items for Loved Ones Post-Reveal

To give your nearest and dearest something to remember the day by, why not hand out personalised clothing items or keepsakes with the addition of the baby’s gender on them. For example, parents who already have a child/children could gift their soon-to-be siblings with an item that reads ‘I’m going to have a little brother/sister’, or something similar. This is particularly good for younger children, as it allows them to be more involved in the process without feeling like they are being pushed aside, or are missing out due to all the attention surrounding the new baby.

For more news and advice about your pregnancy, follow First Encounters on Twitter
To see more of our scan souvenirs, click here.