MOTHERS-TO-BE and their families can have a special keepsake to cherish thanks to a new 4D maternity ultrasound scanning service which allows them to see their baby before it is born.

Thanks to the latest scanning technology, life-like details of the unborn baby developing in the mother's womb are produced in three and four dimensions - the fourth dimension refers to movement.

The images provide easily recognisable images of their baby's face in particular.

The skin covering the baby's internal organs can be seen and it may be possible yo see the shape of the baby's mouth and nose, or see the baby smile, yawn or suck on his or her fingers and stick their tongue out.

Young mother, Jennifer Bowen, 25 from Middlesbrough, who is 31 weeks pregnant, was determined to have a 4D scan after missing out when she had her first baby and only seeing her son after he was born.

She said: "It was a fantastic experience, I was able to confirm my baby was a girl and we could see her cheeks and face and she was pouting and opening her mouth and it was wonderful to see."

The maternity service at The James Cook University Hospital is the first hospital in Tees Valley to offer 4D ultrasound scanning. The service is also available at James Cook for mothers booked to have their babies at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

The best time to have a bonding scan is between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy and about 26 weeks for twin pregnancies.

Costing £100 for a 30-minute appointment, expectant parents received a DVD of the full scan, a memory stick and six black and white pictures to show family and friends.