Ultrasound scans are important for checking the health of you and your baby. There are different types of scanning service and it's important to understand what each type offers.
Check the service is registered with us
Services must register with us if they offer diagnostic and screening procedures that use ultrasound to examine the body. This is called 'sonography'. It includes diagnostic as well as souvenir baby scans.
Look for the service using the search box here or call us on 03000 616161.
If the service is not registered with us they may be practising illegally. Their insurance may not cover them or you if anything goes wrong.
Types of scanning service
Independent baby scanning services usually offer diagnostic scans or souvenir scans. Sometimes they offer a combination of both.
A diagnostic scan uses ultrasound to check the health of you and your baby. It's important to have diagnostic scans so you know your pregnancy is progressing as planned.
A souvenir scan uses ultrasound to record pictures or videos of your baby to keep as a memento.
Sometimes, you might be offered a chance to hear the heartbeat using Doppler ultrasound. But, this should only be carried out:
- by a sonographer trained in using Doppler
- after 14 weeks, unless there is a clinical reason.
Souvenir scans are not for diagnosing problems with you or your baby.
A report published by the Health Protection Agency found no definite evidence souvenir scans harm your baby. But it's important to understand there may be risks we do not know about yet.
If you are thinking about having a souvenir scan, it might be helpful to talk it through with your GP, midwife, obstetrician or NHS sonographer.
Whatever you decide, you still need to have your routine diagnostic scans
A souvenir scan is not a replacement for the routine diagnostic scans you have through the NHS or your independent healthcare provider. These are also known as 'screening scans'.
You should still have routine scans at:
- 11 to 14 weeks of your pregnancy
- 18 to 21 weeks
Your doctor, nurse, midwife or another healthcare professional may also recommend scans at other times.
Ask who will perform the scan
Before you decide, you can ask the service who will carry out the scan and how qualified they are.
Anyone trained to use ultrasound equipment to perform the scan can describe themselves as a sonographer. But it's important to understand it's not the same as it being carried out by a healthcare professional like a radiographer, nurse, midwife or doctor.
Find out what training the sonographer has had
If your scan is being performed by a sonographer, you can ask what training they've had and if they are on a register.
CASE accredited training
The Consortium for the Accreditation of Sonographic Education (CASE) checks whether training courses for sonographers meet certain standards.
Not all training is accredited by CASE and sonographers do not have to go on CASE accredited courses. But if someone has completed a CASE accredited course, this shows their training has at least met the UK standard.
Register of sonographers
Sonographers are now a distinct group within the Register of Clinical Technologists (RCT). This is an accredited register with the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).
The RCT register is voluntary and not all sonographers choose to join it. Some may register elsewhere as a radiographer, nurse, midwife or doctor. So, if the person carrying out your scan is not on the register it does not necessarily mean you need to worry.
If a sonographer is listed on the RCT register, it can offer you some reassurance when choosing a service. This is because they must give certain details, including their qualifications.
But it is important to understand the register itself is not a form of accreditation. It does not guarantee the sonographer is competent.
Research your options
Read as much as you can about the different types of scans.
The service you're considering may have information you can read. The NHS also has information about ultrasound scans.