Three women and a baby (scanner) – How Pearl is shining for new mums to be
“A lot of people don’t know the difference between 3D and 4D. We’re lucky to have that technology around these days. Hospitals don’t offer it, and it’s something that women can have as a nice treat for themselves.”
We’re in Thornton Hall café talking with Sharon Daccus, Helen Carn, and Ali Arnold (main pic, L – R) who took the leap to open Pearl Baby Scanning midway through 2013 to help new mums see more of their baby before birth, and are still going strong.
“They get to see their baby; on the black and white 2D images people can see their babies and think they can see some features, but the detail you can achieve on 3D scans is amazing, and you start to see certain features like little chubby cheeks and pouty lips; lots of little expressions,” Ali continues.
“For the mum, it’s lovely to know that all that’s happening inside and they pull those faces, and when they come out it’s nice to link it all together.
“It’s a unique business. The repeat business isn’t there like a café or a shop. Once your nine months is up you can’t come again! You have to keep chipping away and getting new customers come in, but word of mouth is spreading and people expecting second babies come back to us.”
Sharon believes 3D and 4D scanning is one of the best ways to connect the mother with the family unit, too. “Babies smile, they yawn… I think it also helps for the dad and the other children in the family, too, because they can’t feel it like mum but they do get to see it. It can help them bond, too.”
Sounds lovely, but don’t be fooled; these are three very astute businesswomen that aren’t only offering a scanning service, but are looking to work alongside the NHS, doctors, and GP surgeries to help ease patient demand and improve overall care in the local community – all while holding down demanding hospital day jobs.
Pearl Baby Scanning can be found at the Joints and Points physio clinic by Bromborough Rake train station, opposite St. Barnabus Church. Quite a trek for the girls from Arrowe Park, but the trio are determined to deliver the absolute best service to expectant parents possible.
“We all met through working at Arrowe Park hospital, we all still work there. Our clients like that continuity and consistency, too. They see us at Pearl and then recognise us when they come into hospital for their 20-week scan,” explains Ali.
“Joints and Points also has what we need for the service, ultrasound rooms need to be very specific to deliver space and privacy for the ladies. Crucially there’s a lot of room so families can come around the TV and look at the baby.”
“We’ve worked together for nearly 10 years, maybe more, and Pearl’s something we’ve always talked about. Two-and-a-half years ago we decided we were going to go for it. Our concern was the business side; we’re not saleswomen but we can scan, we’re local, and know what the ladies want,” Sharon adds.
To us it sounds like a no-brainer. Common sense; could start-ups such as this be the future of the NHS and healthcare, people working within its halls that know the system and where pressure needs to be relieved to make it flow better for the overall welfare of local patients?
“We have been contacting GPs to try and work with them. We can’t provide an NHS service at the moment, but for those ladies that want early reassurance we are here, we can issue a report, they know we are local staff, qualified, and competent,” explains Sharon.
We’re talking about the future for Pearl and where the girls see themselves in a few years. Ali is hopeful they can grow into other areas. “We’d love to work alongside the early pregnancy unit and help them; we can help during the evening and weekends, too. People don’t have to wait weeks. If people are bleeding and pregnant they don’t want to wait, they want help right now.”
It’s true. The NHS is being kicked around like the proverbial political football it is and has been for years, but smaller, more local solutions from the likes of Pearl may be an effective middle ground for carers and patients alike. Pearl exists because the girls are mums themselves and want to provide the safest possible service and help families bond with their babies before they’re even born.
“We’re CQC registered which means somebody from the Care Quality Commission came in to assess us all in a lot of detail, and they were completely happy with us. We always said from the beginning we want to do this right and not cut any corners,” says Ali.
“It’s a gift or a way to spoil themselves because pregnant women can’t really go out and drink, eat certain foods. I had a lady on the phone booking the other week saying, “I’m booking this scan for me, it’s my treat for me!” It’s a nice present to give.
“People keep in touch; they send us pictures of the baby scan and their newborn in very similar poses and the results are uncanny.
“We can also offer scans for fertility and women looking to get pregnant. We can bring them in to check if their ovaries look normal and if the uterus is a normal size, that the lining of the womb is as it should be during the stage of the cycle they think they’re at,” she adds.
The seven-week itch
Helen highlights that, especially with pregnancy tests telling women they’re expecting from three weeks, 12 can be a long time to wait for a first scan.
“We allow up to about four adults and their children to come as well; the hospital only allows one person as the scans are diagnostic. We can scan women from seven weeks whereas they can only get a scan in a hospital from 12 weeks.
“There’s a reason hospitals wait until 12 weeks because they can see a whole lot more, but it’s reassuring from seven weeks because it shows a heartbeat, and a lot of new mums just need to see that.
“Say they’ve had twins before and they want to know if they’re having twins again, they can see that at seven weeks. The same if they’ve had a worrying pregnancy before; we can reassure them that everything’s in the right place, that the heart’s beating; things they’d have to wait until 12 weeks to find out.
And it’s the technology that cannot just help new mothers, but potentially other patients in the future too in regard IVF, according to Ali.
“A lot of ladies are going abroad for treatment. We can do the scans here so they can time their trips abroad. IVF is cheaper abroad and egg donors are more readily available and can be anonymous, so it can be quicker and easier for people.”
Sharon thinks local GPs can also make use of Pearl. “We want to work alongside the NHS and complement their service, not work against them. There are ultrasound scans now being done in GP surgeries as well, so I think with time we can branch out into general scanning, too.”
Helen adds: “GPs hold their own funds so if you’re their patient they can decide the best level of care for you. So if you can have a scan in their surgery within a couple of days that’s got to be better for overall patient care. It helps them prioritise too, and helps work out who needs immediate care and attention.”