pregnancy ultrasound scans

An exhibition in Glasgow is set to take place in order to celebrate the city’s role in the development of obstetric ultrasounds. Organisers of the event are searching for women who underwent the first ever ultrasound scans in the 1960s.

The women will be able to share their experience on camera and the event will highlight how far technology has come since its development.

Where pregnancy ultrasound scans began

It’s easy to take pregnancy ultrasounds for granted these days. Since their development, ultrasound scans have come a long way. These days, as well as the standard 2D scans, patients can also opt to undergo 3D and even 4D pregnancy scans; seeing their baby in miraculous detail.

However, back in the 1960s, pregnant women had no way of seeing their growing baby until designer, Dugald Cameron, developed the machinery. Cameron was graduating the Glasgow School of Art when he developed the Diasonograph, which was ultimately produced by Kelvin & Hughes Ltd, a Glasgow-based company. It was then used within The Queen Mother’s Hospital. Cameron worked alongside clinical obstetricians, electronics and design, and engineering experts to develop the machine.

Glasgow wasn’t just the first city within the UK to offer pregnancy ultrasound scans, it was the first in the world.

When will the event be held?

The exhibition, known as Ultrasonic Glasgow, will be held at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in October. This gives plenty of time for patients to come forward. The GSA is especially interested in hearing from those who took part in the first ever ultrasound scans. They are also interested in hearing from anybody who worked on the equipment in the 1960’s.

The hope is they will be able to record interviews of the first women to undergo the pregnancy ultrasound scans, highlighting their early experiences with the technology. This will show just how far ultrasounds have come and how they transformed the industry.

Women who would like to take part in the event, are asked to email the GSA at ultrasoundstories@gmail.com. Alternatively, you could write to the GSA at The Glasgow School of Art, Communication Design Staff Office, Floor 1, Reid Building, 167 Renfrew Street, G3 6RQ.

Pregnancy ultrasound scans today

Today, ultrasound scans are carried out routinely at the beginning of the pregnancy. Traditional 2D scans remain the most popular option. They use high-frequency sound waves in order to create a 2D image of baby in the womb.

They can be used for both diagnosis and treatment and they’re considered safe as they use sound waves, rather than radiation. 3D and 4D scans are still considered safe, although experts do advise against having them done as a memento only as baby shouldn’t be exposed to more scans than they need to be. Special transducers are required to carry out these tests, which are known to be expensive.

Overall, when you look back to how ultrasound scans developed and where they are today, you can see just how far we have come. The event held by the GSA is set to provide an exciting insight into how it all started.

Call 07835 736627 to arrange a consultation and find out more about your pregnancy ultrasound options.

in-clinic cervical cancer screening

As in-clinic cervical cancer screening hits a 20-year low, experts are claiming DIY smear tests could be the answer. Giving patients the option to carry out a home-based cervical screening test, it eliminates the anxiety and fear which is said to be the leading reason patients avoid their routine smear appointments.

A pilot scheme will be introduced in north and east London, expected to take place in September. The charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said this home testing kit could prove to be a game changer for women.

What are the new home-based cervical cancer screening kits?

The home-based testing kits will include a vaginal swab. This will be a little longer than a cotton bud, and it will take just a few minutes to take the test. A freepost box or envelope will be supplied to send the test back.

It’s a very simple and straightforward testing kit which is so far showing great promise. The fact it can be done from the comfort of a patient’s home at their own convenience is likely to increase the number of tests carried out.

Other countries have already seen success from home sampling kits

These testing kits have already proven successful in other countries such as Denmark and Australia. More cancers have been prevented as a result of the home testing kits being introduced. So, the hope is this new pilot taking place in England, will lead to an introduction of the test within the NHS.

It is worth pointing out that the tests can be purchased online. They just aren’t available on the NHS. The GynaeCheck kit allows patients to carry out their own test at home and receive results within 10 days. However, not everyone can afford the cost of the kit, which at present is £85.

There are a number of reasons women may not want to attend their routine smear tests. Fear and anxiety do tend to be the driving motivators for missing appointments. However, for many women, the timing of the tests can also be inconvenient. Those with busy lifestyles may find it difficult to get into an appointment, so the home testing option would prove extremely beneficial.

The importance of in-clinic cervical cancer screening

Although the at-home screening kit is likely to increase cervical screening rates, it is unlikely to be introduced onto the NHS until at least 2020. So, in the meantime, it is very important that patients who cannot afford the current at-home testing kit, to attend their GP-based smear test. Alternatively, in-clinic cervical screening can be carried out within a private clinic such as SureScan.

If patients are anxious or fearful about the test, there are things which can be done to reduce these feelings. Taking somebody into the appointment with you, reading a book and trying out different positions if one proves uncomfortable, are all potential ways to reduce anxiety.

Overall, smear tests are undoubtedly uncomfortable, at least in terms of embarrassment and anxiety. However, they take just a few minutes and have the potential to save our lives. They also aren’t as bad as you might think if you’ve never attended one before. Book your smear test with SureScan today and see just how quick and painless this crucial test can be.

cervical cancer screening

A new Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign has been launched by Public Health England. The campaign is encouraging more women to attend cervical screening tests, as recent research shows up to 83% of cervical cancer cases could have been prevented if caught earlier.

It is estimated that around 2,600 women within England are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, with a fatality rate of 690 patients. Most worryingly, is that 25% of women choose not to attend routine screenings with their GP.

What is a smear test?

A cervical smear test is used to determine whether any of the cells within the cervix are pre-cancerous. They are typically offered to patients who are 25, then they are provided every three years until the age of 49.

The test itself takes around ten minutes, with the actual procedure taking up just five minutes. A speculum coated in lubricant is inserted into the vagina, to keep the cervix open. A tiny brush will then be used to swab the cells. Some patients do experience a small scratching feeling, but it is rarely painful.

Understanding the cervical cancer screening campaign

The new Public Health England campaign provides information on how patients can make the test more comfortable, as well as reassuring those who may be fearful of the procedure. Although the test can diagnose cervical cancer, it is not actually a cancer test. It is simply looking for pre-cancerous cells which could pose a problem later on. By detecting these pre-cancerous cells, it allows health professionals to treat them before they turn into cancer.

Once women have undergone a smear test, the majority tend to feel positive about their experience. A staggering 87% of women who attend their appointments claim they are glad that they went. It only takes a few minutes and once it’s done, provided no abnormalities were found, it won’t have to be carried out for another three years.

However, despite how straightforward and painless the procedure is, a staggering number of women still put it off due to fear and anxiety.

Things can be done to reduce anxiety before a smear test

Patients who have been putting off their smear test can do things to reduce their anxiety. You could take a friend or family member into the appointment with you, different positions can be tried if any discomfort is felt, and you are also welcome to read a book while the test is being carried out if that helps.

There are self-screening kits currently being trialled in England. These kits, which allow women to carry out their own smear test, could potentially solve the issue of having to go in and experience the embarrassment and fear of a clinic setting. However, for now, patients need to ensure they attend their routine smear tests.

If you are anxious, you can choose to get cervical cancer screening done at a private clinic, such as SureScan. It can help to undergo the test in a quieter clinic setting. As a smear test only takes a few minutes and it can potentially save your life, it is definitely worth making sure you attend your appointments.

genetic testing and ultrasound pregnancy scans

New research has revealed that genetic testing can improve the diagnosis of abnormalities in baby’s detected during ultrasound pregnancy scans. Published in the Lancet, the research was carried out in a collaborative effort by the University of Birmingham, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the University of Cambridge.

Below, we’ll delve into the study and its findings and what it means for the future detection of abnormalities.

Understanding the study

The study involved 610 developing babies with detected abnormalities, and a total of 1206 biological parents. Whole-exome sequencing was carried out, with DNA samples being taken from pregnancies as they were screened for conditions such as Down’s Syndrome.

Out of the 610 pregnancies, the researchers were able to identify new diagnoses of genetically known disorders in 52 of the babies. This equates to a percentage of 8.5%. What was interesting about the research, is that babies which did have genetic diagnoses were more likely to have heart defects, multi-organ issues and skeletal abnormalities. This means some ultrasound pregnancy scans could be better picked up for genetic testing.

So, the study revealed that genome sequencing can improve the diagnosis of genetic conditions alongside ultrasound technology. Now, the researchers are hoping that the results will aid NHS England to roll out technology allowing them to perform exome sequencing. The initial technology is likely to be invasive, though non-invasive technology will also hopefully be rolled out with time.

The majority of the diagnoses identified were for conditions which have a low rate of recurrence in any future pregnancies.

Why will revealing these results to parents help?

The researchers claim that revealing the results of exome sequencing alongside ultrasound scans, will help them to choose better care options. It also gives medical professionals the ability to better counsel their patients and help them identify the best course of care going forward.

The trouble with just having an ultrasound pregnancy scans is that the results aren’t overly insightful. This can lead to a lot of confusion and worry. However, with exome sequencing, the parents can be provided with the important information they need about baby’s outlook and give them a better idea of what to expect.

Should genetic testing be included as a mainstream diagnosis?

The results of this latest study show the importance of giving parents a more informed diagnosis when abnormalities are detected during an ultrasound scan. When an issue is detected, parents obviously want to know everything they can about the abnormality and what it means. However, they don’t realise that there could be many reasons for the abnormality. Exome sequencing can, therefore, provide more accurate information on what has caused the abnormality and how it impacts their developing baby. Introducing genetic testing as a mainstream diagnosis would, therefore, be extremely beneficial.

Overall, it can be worrying when you’re told an abnormality has been detected on ultrasound pregnancy scans. While genetic testing isn’t currently available as a mainstream diagnosis, this new study provides hope that it soon will be.

gender scan Sutton Coldfield

Some hospitals across Scotland have decided they will no longer reveal the baby’s gender at routine pregnancy scans. For decades, women have been able to determine whether they are having a boy or a girl at the standard 20-week scan. So, why are some hospitals choosing to stop revealing gender?

Here, we’ll look at the reasons behind the sudden change and the options women have if they still want to know the sex before baby is born.

Why are some hospitals choosing not to perform a gender scan?

The decision to stop revealing baby’s gender has been made by some hospitals due to the fear over legal action if the prediction is wrong. A total of 4 out of 14 NHS boards including Orkney, Grampian, Shetland and Forth Valley, no longer offer gender reveal.

Hospital sources revealed that this was partly down to the threat of legal action when the gender turned out to be wrong. There have also been cases where sonographers have been verbally abused when they haven’t been able to detect baby’s gender during the scan. This has led to the hospital policy being changed in the hope staff will no longer have to go through potential abuse if they can’t get a clear image of baby.

However, although it has only recently come to light, these Scottish NHS hospitals have actually avoided revealing baby’s gender for many years now. The NHS Forth Valley for example, claims its sonographers don’t routinely tell patients the sex of their baby, and that has been their policy for more than ten years now. The only time the gender would be revealed is if it was required for clinical purposes.

The trouble with early ultrasound scans is that they can’t always provide a clear picture of baby. So, it isn’t always possible to determine the sex during the routine scan.

Is withholding baby’s gender the right thing?

The media coverage surrounding the decision to avoid revealing baby’s gender has led to a lot of heated debate. Is it right to withhold baby’s gender? Perhaps what would be more beneficial, would be if patients were informed about the risks of the gender reveal being wrong. Many don’t understand that early ultrasound scans cannot always determine baby’s sex.

There has also been some coverage that revealing baby’s gender may lead to more terminations. However, this is only really an issue in countries where cultural beliefs may come into play. In the UK, gender selection isn’t as prevalent as it is in many other parts of the world. So, the decision not to reveal baby’s gender may be a little unfair for patients, but it’s certainly understandable from the hospital’s point of view.

Patients who have been refused to find out the sex of their baby do have other options. A private gender reveal scan can show you whether or not you are having a boy or a girl. The cost isn’t as expensive as you might think, and you’ll also be able to choose whether you want a 3D or 4D scan.

ovarian cancer test

Here in the UK, over 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and it’s the sixth most common cancer affecting women. If a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the early stages then she has a 70% chance of survival, but unfortunately, the disease is still often detected once it has become more advanced, which is why it is often called ‘the silent killer’.

In the early stages, symptoms of the disease are often vague and are often dismissed merely as women’s problems, particularly in post-menopausal women. To mark Ovarian Cancer Month this March, here is a list of symptoms to be aware of:

  • Persistent bloating
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain or pain in the lower back
  • Needing to wee more frequently or more urgently

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to GPs is that they should offer ovarian cancer screening to women if they experience these symptoms more than 12 times in a month or continue for three weeks.

Advice for women over 50 who are experiencing symptoms similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, is to see a GP for an ovarian cancer test as it is unusual for women over the age of 50 to develop this condition for the first time.

Other possible symptoms of ovarian cancer to be aware of include:

  • Changes in bowel movements, either diarrhoea or constipation
  • Feeling very tired for no reason
  • Unexplained weight fluctuations (either weight gain or weight loss)
  • Bleeding between periods (you should always see a GP if you experience any bleeding after the menopause)
  • Pain during sex

At the moment, there is no national screening programme for ovarian cancer. At SureScan, we offer full screening for ovarian cancer including consultation for risk assessment and a combination of tests. For more advice and diagnosis, please call us on 07835 736627 or 0121 308 7774 to arrange an appointment for an ovarian cancer test.

Nuchal Translucency Scan

When you’re pregnant, there are a lot of scans and tests available to ensure baby is developing properly. One optional scan you may want to undergo is the Nuchal Translucency scan.

Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the Nuchal Translucency scan and why it is carried out.

What is a Nuchal Translucency scan?

The Nuchal Translucency scan is an ultrasound scan that is offered to women in their first trimester. It can be carried out between 11 and 13 weeks and its purpose is to identify any potential chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down’s Syndrome.

The ultrasound scan looks to see how much nuchal translucency there is within the foetus. While some nuchal translucency is completely normal, there shouldn’t be excessive levels identified. However, if it is discovered that your baby has excessive levels of nuchal translucency, it doesn’t automatically mean they have a chromosomal abnormality. Instead, it’s used as an indicator of risk, rather than an actual diagnosis.

In order to get a more conclusive prediction, a Nuchal Translucency scan may be combined with a blood test. The blood test looks for both hCG and PAPP-A hormones. These are passed on from the foetus to the mother and if low levels of PAPP-A are identified, it could indicate an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the foetus.

Without having the blood test, the nuchal translucency scan has an accuracy of around 75%. However, with the blood test, the accuracy rate increases to 85%.

Is a Nuchal Translucency safe?

One of the main questions you may have about the test is whether or not it’s safe for baby. The good news the ultrasound scan has no known risk factors for either baby or mother. So, it’s 100% safe to undergo.

However, if there are abnormalities detected and you’re classed as a high risk for chromosomal abnormalities, you may be offered further testing. Some of these additional tests can increase the risk of miscarriage, so it’s important to talk through the risks with your healthcare professional.

What happens during the scan?

You’ll typically be referred by your doctor for a Nuchal Translucency scan. However, you can also book one privately.

It will take approximately half an hour to have the scan done by our scanning experts. Like a standard ultrasound scan, a gel will be placed onto the abdomen, before a transducer device is rolled gently across it. You may notice a little pressure, but the scan shouldn’t be painful.

If we have trouble getting a clear picture through the abdominal ultrasound, then we may offer a vaginal ultrasound instead. This will help them to get a much closer look at baby, along with a clearer image of the nuchal translucency fluid. You’ll receive the results of the scan within two weeks. If the results show an NT measurement of 3.5mm, that’s considered a normal result. An NT measurement lower than 1.3mm is considered low risk, while an NT measurement result of 6 or over is considered a high risk of chromosomal abnormalities.

Overall, a Nuchal Translucency scan can be a great tool for identifying your baby’s risk of developing chromosomal abnormalities. It’s a fast, safe ultrasound scan procedure and when done with a blood test, its accuracy rating is pretty impressive.

timeline for pregnancy scans

It’s perfectly normal to be wary of undergoing pregnancy scans and tests. However, most of them are simply carried out to confirm that baby is developing normally, and everything is ok. You also have the opportunity to see your baby, enhancing the bond you feel for your unborn child.

Sometimes, scans may be needed to detect more serious conditions. In any case, it’s good to have a clear idea of how the pregnancy is developing and whether or not there are any issues which may need to be addressed. The question is, how many scans and tests will you need? Here, you’ll discover a brief timeline for pregnancy scans and tests.

Basic pregnancy scans you’ll need

After having a βhCG (urine pregnancy) test to confirm the pregnancy, you’ll typically require two basic scans. The first is carried out at 12 weeks and takes approximately 10 minutes. This is where you’ll find out the due date of your baby, along with how many babies you are expecting, and whether there appears to be any abnormalities. It’s an abdominal scan, so a gel will be placed onto the abdomen before a handheld device is used to scan the area.

You’ll get to see a black and white image of your womb and growing baby, though you may not be able to clearly make them out just yet! This first scan is understandably exciting for expectant parents, particularly if it’s your first baby. After the scan, you’ll be given a copy of the image of your baby to take home.

The second basic scan is carried out at 20 weeks. During this scan you’ll be able to see baby much more clearly and most importantly of all, decide whether you want to know the sex. It usually takes from 15 to 20 minutes, and you do have the option to buy scan pictures to take home with you. The specialist will be able to check that baby is continuing to develop normally and detect any potential problems.

Early pregnancy scans

In some cases, you may need an early pregnancy scan. These take place between 6 to 10 weeks and are usually provided if you’re experiencing bleeding or if you’ve previously experienced a miscarriage.

As baby will be really small, you may need to have a probe inserted into the vagina to get a proper look at what is going on. This type of scan will also show your baby’s age and size, as well as check for a heartbeat.

For more information on your pregnancy scan timeline, give us a call on 07835 736627 or 0121 308 7774.

presentation scan

When you’re pregnant, it’s common to undergo numerous scans to check on the progress of the baby. Most typically, scans are carried out early on in the pregnancy. However, a presentation scan is one of the few that are performed later on in the pregnancy.

Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about a presentation scan, including why you might need one.

What is a presentation scan?

A presentation scan is typically carried out after 36 weeks into the pregnancy. Its primary purpose is to establish the position of baby, though it also looks into the position of the placenta, and how much amniotic fluid is surrounding baby.

The presentation scan isn’t performed unless it is recommended by your midwife or obstetrician. It is typically recommended to those perceived to have a high risk of a breech presentation and if the clinical examination is not accurate in determining the presentation.

Why it’s important to check baby’s position

During delivery, babies should be born head first. Throughout the pregnancy, your baby will move around a lot, sometimes ending up in what is referred to as breech position. This is where either the feet or the buttocks are the opposite way around to what they should be. Giving birth with baby’s feet first can raise potential risks, with most needing to be born via a caesarean section.

By week 36 of the pregnancy, baby should have settled into their final position. If they are still in breech position, a caesarean section will most likely be scheduled between weeks 37 and 38. The presentation scan helps to identify what position baby is in.

What does the presentation scan include?

A presentation scan typically includes an ultrasound scan. Most private clinics provide 4D imaging of baby, giving you an in-depth look into how they are developing. You can also have either 2D or 3D scans printed. If you haven’t found out baby’s sex yet, there is the possibility you could find out during the presentation scan. However, it does depend upon what position baby is in.

After the scan, you’ll be provided with a report, including baby’s measurements if requested. The entire appointment will last between 15 and 20 minutes, though the scan itself takes just a couple of minutes to locate baby’s head.

What do you need to do to prepare for a presentation scan?

Unlike other pregnancy scans, you’ll be pleased to learn that you don’t typically need a full bladder before the scan takes place. You will need to expose the abdomen, however, so it is recommended you wear two pieces of clothing, such as trousers and a top, rather than a dress. It is possible to take guests with you, though ideally, you’ll want to limit it to two to three people.

Overall, presentation scans can prove crucial in preventing breech births. While they are pretty rare, in the event your baby is still in breech position, it does help to be prepared. Once you’ve received the results of the scan, you’ll be able to come up with a plan of action of how best to proceed with the birth.

Call 07835 736627 or 0121 308 7774 to arrange a Presentation Scan at SureScan.

frozen eggs

Fertility campaigners and experts are placing pressure onto the government to change the time limit on how long women can store their frozen eggs. As it stands, women who choose to freeze their eggs for social reasons can store them for a maximum of ten years. After that, the eggs are required to be destroyed if they haven’t been used for IVF. Campaigners argue that the time should be lengthened to keep up with modern society.

Here, we’ll look at the current laws regarding egg freezing and why it’s time for them to change.

What are the current laws and when were they introduced?

Current laws state that eggs frozen for social purposes, rather than fertility purposes, can be stored for a maximum of 10 years. After that, they need to be destroyed. If premature fertility issues are likely to be a problem, this limit can be increased to up to 55 years.

The current laws were introduced in 1990 through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. At the time the 10-year storage limit was set, fertility clinics relied upon slow-freezing techniques, which meant that the eggs couldn’t last much longer than 10 years.

Why are fertility experts campaigning for change?

These days, technology has vastly improved the fertility sector, enabling experts to freeze eggs for much longer. Not only that, but the age in which women are choosing to start a family has also increased.

Since 2010, more women than ever before have started to freeze their eggs. It’s common for women to focus more on their careers and travelling before they settle down and have children in today’s society. Therefore, the 10-year time limit that was introduced in 1990 is vastly outdated. There has also been an increase in the number of women waiting until they find the right partner before they contemplate having kids. So, fertility experts are campaigning to change the law in accordance with today’s technology and society.

What impact would lengthening the time limit have on society?

The debate over changing the laws was actually brought up in the House of Lords in 2018. Lord O’Shaunghnessy, a Conservative, argued that an extension to the length of time eggs can be stored, would have “far-reaching impacts on decisions that women make in starting families”. He claimed that there would need to be a public debate before a change in the current laws could be contemplated.

There is a worry that lengthening the time span would lead to women starting families a lot later than they do now. So, some experts are concerned about the impact that would have on society. However, the key thing that needs to be remembered within the debate, is that ultimately it should be down to each individual woman when she wants to start a family.

As fertility declines in a woman’s 30s, the eggs need to ideally be frozen in their 20s. However, under current laws, this means the eggs may need to be destroyed before the women are ready to start a family. Times and have changed and the laws also need to change in order to reflect modern technology and society.

If you’re concerned about your future fertility, the first step is to book a fertility health check so you can make informed decisions about your next steps. Call 07835 736627 or 0121 308 7774 to book an appointment at SureScan.