First Encounters
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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 >
 
When looking into booking a private ultrasound scan, there are a few things you should consider in order to ensure that you are not only getting the best value but equally the most comprehensive scan for your money, without compromising any aspects of the service. Listed below are a few things you should keep in mind before booking an ultrasound scan.

Here are the key points to consider when choosing your scan provider:

Is the company regulated, and will your scan be carried out by qualified healthcare professionals with experience of obstetric ultrasound and 4D?

It's easy to spot a regulated provider by checking the company's name against the CQC or HIW register. Reputable, regulated companies will often display widgets linking to the relevant regulatory body on their website, thereby confirming their current 'approved' status. Regulated providers are required to operate to the highest standards, ensuring a safe experience that's conducted by qualified healthcare professionals who are experienced in the provision of obstetric care.

However, not all qualified sonographers are practised in the art of 4D, and the lack of practical experience required to produce a quality 4D scan can often result in disappointment when the standard of service advertised is not what you receive. We are proud to say that First Encounters can provide evidence of conforming to a number of regulatory standards, the details of which can be found here, All of our sonographers are carefully-selected individuals who are registered with the Health Professions Council, which means that they reach the required standards for training, professional skills, behaviour and health. They are highly experienced and practised in the provision of 4D ultrasound, and are fully committed to producing the best result possible in each unique case.

Is the latest equipment being used, and is it safe?

Many ultrasound machines used in small private studios are purchased second-hand and not supplied direct from the manufacturers with the relevant safety certification. If installed incorrectly, such machines have the potential to cause electric shocks, which may be emitted through the probe to your tummy!

It is imperative that isolation transformers are correctly installed to minimise this risk; however, while you may assume that such a safety issue would be routinely assessed as part of the regulatory assessment, such detailed checks are surprisingly not made during inspections. Therefore, this serious safety risk can often remain undetected until it’s too late.

Here at First Encounters, we use the very latest, state-of-the art equipment, which is professionally installed and regularly serviced by the manufacturer. Not only do we provide excellent quality imagery, we also ensure that safety risks to you and your baby are eliminated.

Are scans available from different providers equal and comparable in price?

Each provider will offer a selection of scans relevant to the service required; however, it is important to read between the lines.  For example, whilst the emphasis of your chosen scan may be to establish gender depiction or indeed to achieve beautiful 4D souvenir imagery, it is also vitally important that the health and wellbeing of your baby is not dismissed.

Some providers will NOT include reassurance at all, whilst others will offer a verbal wellbeing report. Here at First Encounters, we provide a written pregnancy report with every scan performed, with an obligation to ensuring that your pregnancy is progressing in line with the advised gestation age. Such evaluation ensures that, should a situation arise, the relevant action can be taken without delay.

Are the facilities satisfactory?

If possible, take a look at the clinic you'll be attending before booking your scan. You want your ultrasound experience to be as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible, especially if you're planning to share it with friends and family, so it's a good idea to research the provider's facilities ahead of time. Click here for details on First Encounters' three clinics.

Are there any reviews online?

Look for testimonials from previous clients, and make sure that the information is relevant and trustworthy. Many franchise operations provide very differing experiences, and reviews are often misleading to the people who read them.

First Encounters is managed by a core family team, who are committed to strong customer service values and ensuring that the service offered at each of our locations meets the same high standards.

Our review page includes testimonials from customers based in a variety of locations, so you can be assured that each of our facilities is highly recommended by those who have visited previously.

* * *

A private 4D scan can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which offers you and your loved ones a breathtaking first glance at your baby, forming a bond that is quite simply invaluable. While some inferior clinics may be able to save you money, the difference in quality could make a huge difference to the experience you get, resulting in long-term disappointment if the service does not live up to your expectations.

We at First Encounters cannot be beaten on the quality of the service we provide. Our prices fully reflect the excellence of service we offer to each and every one of our customers; to gain a thorough understanding of what we have to offer, please visit our About Us page or view the variety of scan packages we have on offer at our clinics.
 
If you're expecting more than one baby, you may be wondering if you can still come to the First Encounters clinic for a 3D/4D bonding experience. In other words...

Can I have a 4D scan if I'm pregnant with twins?

Yes, you can! Many of the expectant mothers we meet are carrying more than one baby, and we frequently carry out scans (both 2D and 3D/4D) on unborn twins. After all, why should you be denied the breathtaking experience of glimpsing their world just because it's a little crowded in there?
 
However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind as you're booking your appointment with us. We recommend that twin scans are carried out between 22 and 26 weeks gestation; any later, and the footage we capture may not be of a satisfactory quality. You see, 4D ultrasound scans tend to give better results if the babies still have a little room in which to move around, and since two babies take up more space than one, we like to get the scan done a little earlier in cases of multiple pregnancies.
 
There's also the issue of payment. Twin scans take longer to perform than individual scans, and this will be reflected in the cost of your scan package. For all of our scans, there is a surcharge if you are carrying twins. This is because we effectively have to perform the scan twice, recording the position, measurements, and heartbeat of two babies instead of just one.

The following scan packages are available for multiple pregnancies:

  • earlyAssure™ (8-13weeks) - a scan tailored to the early stages of pregnancy. We can date the pregnancy, visualise a heartbeat and identify if you're having twins! (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £15).
  • Growth&Reassure™ (14-32 weeks) - a scan that's designed to obtain growth measurements and check the wellbeing of your baby (or babies)! (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £15).
  • Growth&Presentation™ (33-40 weeks) - a scan that's designed to obtain growth measurements and check the wellbeing of your baby (or babies) later on in your pregnancy! (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £15).
  • simplyGender™ (16-32 weeks) - a cost-effective baby sexing scan. We will perform visual heartbeat and movement checks & you'll take home a variety of souvenirs. (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £25)
  • secretGender™ (16-32 weeks) - a cost-effective baby scan, where the gender of your baby/babies will be discovered but not revealed! You will be able to reveal the gender in your own time, at a party or with your close family. (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £35).
  • Gender&Growth™ (16-32 weeks) - a private gender scan where you and your guests will discover the gender of your baby/babies. During this scan, we endeavour to capture a 4D glimpse of your babies! (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £30)
  • Classic4D&Growth™ (18-32 weeks) - watch your unborn baby/babies in stunning 4D! Take home 3D photographic images to cherish forever. (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £40).
  • Deluxe4D&Growth™ (24-32 weeks) -  watch your unborn baby/babies in stunning 4D! Take your high-quality 3D photos home to cherish forever, suitable later in your pregnancy! (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £45).
  • Ultimate4D&Growth™ (24-32 weeks) - Our bespoke, ultimate package is a bonding, well being and 4D scan package rolled into one! (Multiple Pregnancy Surcharge £60)
We regret that we are not able to accommodate triplets (or quadruplets, quintuplets, etc.) in any of our scan packages.
 
Ready to meet your twins? Book your First Encounters Ultrasound scan now!
 
If you're pregnant and you've recently booked a reassurance scan, you may well be wondering what to expect on the day. Conversely, perhaps you're still trying to decide what kind of ultrasound package is right for you, in which case you may wish to learn more about the reassurance scan and what this option has to offer. Either way, the First Encounters team are here to help!

One important thing to bear in mind is that a reassurance scan is not a substitute for the standard 20 week anomaly scan that's offered by the NHS. Instead, your reassurance scan will complement the results of the NHS appointment, giving you more information and further reassurance that your baby is developing normally without aiming to reach the same level of diagnostic detail.

The main aim of a reassurance scan is to check on the progression of your pregnancy and identify the general health, growth, and wellbeing of your unborn baby. It can be carried out at any point during your pregnancy starting from 14 weeks gestation.

Your reassurance scan will reveal the following information:

  • Growth measurements (including head circumference, abdominal circumference, and femur length). This information allows us to plot your baby's growth onto our average growth chart, which will tell us if your baby is developing faster or slower than average. Our ultrasound machine can also use these measurements to calculate foetal weight.

  • Fluid levels will be observed - these are crucial to the wellbeing of your baby and to the safe progression of your pregnancy, so if we notice that your levels are markedly above or below the set protocol, we will use the four-quadrant technique to collect additional data that will help your NHS doctor to carry out a diagnostic evaluation.

  • An audible heartbeat trace will be carried out during your reassurance scan, allowing you to hear your baby's heartbeat and helping our sonographer to ensure that the foetus is healthy.

  • We will also look to identify the baby's position and the placental site to make sure everything is in the right place.

Want to book a reassurance scan?

reAssure™ is our standard 2D reassurance scan here at First Encounters Ultrasound. However, a reassurance scan is included in all of our ultrasound packages (with the exception of pureGender and taster4D™), so the information listed above will almost always be collected as part of your First Encounters experience.

Click here to compare our scan packages, or get in touch to find out more and book your reassurance scan.

Image by moke076
2D scan vs. 4D scan
 
Many people aren't quite sure of the difference between a 2D scan and a 3D/4D scan. We offer both options here at First Encounters - today, we're going to explain each option in detail, helping you to select the ultrasound scan package that suits you best.

4D Scans

A 4D ultrasound scan - such as our Deluxe4D&Growth™ package - allows you to see what your baby really looks like via detailed three-dimensional footage. Some clinics offer '3D scans', which give still images of your baby; here at First Encounters, we specialise in 4D ultrasound, which allows you to see your baby moving around in real time. 3D scans produce photographs; 4D scans produce video footage.
 
Here are some further details about our 4D scans:
  • 3D/4D ultrasound technology renders an image from the surface of your baby's skin for unparalleled detail

  • Scan footage is projected onto a large plasma television screen, allowing you and your guests to watch

  • Our 4D scans are popular among expectant mothers who have already received their dating and anomaly scans, and who now wish to take a closer look at the baby that's growing inside them. Our 4D scans make fantastic baby bonding experiences, giving you a detailed glimpse into your baby's world and bringing you a little bit closer to the child you're about to bring into the world.

  • Some of our 4D scan packages (e.g. 4DgenderAssure™) include gender confirmation as standard; others allow you to find out the sex upon request. However, gender confirmation is always done via a 2D ultrasound scan, even if your package includes 3D/4D imaging.

  • After your 4D scan, you will have the opportunity to purchase a variety of lovely souvenirs that can be shared with friends and relatives. These range from printed photographs and DVDs to key rings, fridge magnets, and our adorable Heartbeat Bear (featuring your unborn baby's heartbeat!)
Baby heartbeat bear
 

2D Scans

2D ultrasound scans don't offer the same level of detail as our 4D packages - you won't really be able to see your baby's face, for example - but they still allow our sonographers to get all the important information about your child. Options like our Growth&Reassure™ package are designed to reassure you about your baby's growth and wellbeing; other 2D scan packages can even tell you whether your unborn baby is a boy or a girl!
 
Here's a little more information on our 2D baby scans:
  • A 2D ultrasound scan produces a black-and-white image that show's your baby's skeletal make-up and allows the sonographer to identify any potential anomalies. As previously mentioned, this two-dimensional view is also ideal for gender confirmation, but please check if this is available with your chosen scan.

  • While a 2D scan doesn't afford the same level of detail and bonding as a full 4D package, you and your guests will still be able to watch the scan on our plasma screen TV and purchase a variety of cute souvenirs after the appointment.
Still not sure which scan is right for you?
Compare Our Ultrasound Packages >                                  Get In Touch For More Info >