The History of Ultrasound & Window to the Womb


The History of Ultrasound & Window to the Womb

Where did Window to the Womb begin?

Window to the Womb were the first private ultrasound scan studio to open in the UK and opened their doors to expectant families in Nottingham in 2003.

Started by the Bowbanks family, who still proudly operate their Nottingham studio, the Window to the Womb brand has had its own babies!

We are now able to offer our range of specialist ultrasound baby scans to families from our baby scan studios which are increasingly located all over the UK.

The original aim of the Bowbanks family was to specialise in providing baby bonding scans from large and comfortable studios and we are proud to say that Window to the Womb is still the only provider in the UK that focuses entirely on baby scanning. We are passionate…even obsessed, about honouring the original dream of the family which was to be known as the very best, most comfortable, safest and best value provider of Gender scans and 4D ultrasound baby scans in the UK.

The history of ultrasound and baby scanning

For most women today, it’s hard to imagine going through a pregnancy without having an ultrasound scan. But these iconic images and movies of a developing fetus, generated by the reflection of high frequency sound waves, have only been around since the mid-1950s.

Ultrasound was first used for clinical purposes in 1956 in Glasgow. Obstetrician Ian Donald and engineer Tom Brown developed the first prototype systems based on an instrument used to detect industrial flaws in ships of all things!

They perfected its clinical use and by the end of the 1950s and ultrasound was then routinely used in Glasgow hospitals but it didn’t really take off in British hospitals until the 1970s.

By the end of the 20th century, ultrasound imaging had become routine in maternity clinics throughout the developed world. The technology has undergone extensive development over the past 20 years.

How does it work?

Ultrasound imaging involves bouncing “ultrasonic” sound waves which are above the audible range of human hearing at the fetus and detecting the echoes that bounce back. It’s used to confirm a pregnancy, to identify the sex and number of fetuses and to detect fetal abnormalities.

During a scan, ultrasound waves are aimed at a pregnant women’s abdomen. Based on the angle of the beam and the time it takes for echoes to return, an image of body structures inside the fetus can be generated.

Early in the use of fetal ultrasound, clinicians could only detect the baby’s head but gradually, with developing expertise, they could discern fine structures in the fetus

Is ultrasound safe?

One of the main advantages of ultrasound is that it’s non-invasive. The procedure has been safely performed on millions of pregnant women. Concerns about its safety have periodically surfaced, but experts suggest that these stem more from anxiety over the role of technology in pregnancy than from evidence of harm.

In a new book that explores the history of ultrasound “Imaging and Imagining the Fetus: The Development of Obstetric Ultrasound” (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), authors Malcolm Nicolson, a history of medicine professor at the University of Glasgow in Scotland states “We can be confident that at the levels currently used for clinical investigation, ultrasound is safe. No pattern of damage has been found”.

However, at very high power, ultrasound waves are able to damage human tissue Nicolson said, adding that testing the threshold at which it becomes dangerous in humans would be unethical. All scans offered by Window to the Womb use the lowest possible levels of ultrasound and adhere to the A.L.A.R.A. (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) protocol as defined by the BMUS (British Medical Ultrasound Society). We also scan for a relatively short time so you can be confident that your baby will come to absolutely no harm and won’t even be aware that the scan has taken place!

The HPA have issued a report on Ultrasound back in 2010. You can see the full report here:

Health Effects of Exposure to Ultrasound and Infrasound by an Advisory Group to the Health Protection Agency

What’s the emotional impact?

Ultrasound has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception by pregnant women. In addition to revealing the baby’s health, the images themselves provide a keepsake. “Overwhelmingly, pregnant women expect to be scanned and are moved and excited by seeing the fetus,” Nicolson said — especially if the baby moves. In fact, Nicolson said, some women report not feeling pregnant until they’ve seen the ultrasound image.