What is a 3-D Ultrasound? The difference between a standard ultrasound and the more advanced 3 D baby scans
Though the procedure for a standard ultrasound and a 3D ultrasound are somewhat similar, in a 4D scan, a more advanced technology ( sonar detection of sound waves) is used in order to obtain very clear images of the fetus and the parents-to-be can actually see very clear images of their child’s face and body as early as 25 weeks of gestation.
Click here to view a video of a 3D ultrasound
A standard 2d ultrasound (or sonogram) is usually recommended by your health care provider between weeks 8-13, to confirm that your pregnancy is healthy and viable. Your doctor will recommend other standard scans as your pregnancy progresses, usually in the second and third trimester in order to monitor your health and your baby’s.
Click here to learn more about the standard baby ultrasound
The major technical difference between a 2D and a 3D fetal scan is that in a 2D ultrasound, sound waves are sent straight down and reflected back, while in a 3D Ultrasound, the sound waves are sent at different angles and the returning echoes are processed by the machine in order to construct 3 dimensional images of both the fetus surface and internal organs.
How is a 3D ultrasound performed?
3D and 4D ultrasounds are usually performed in a private ultrasound clinic and no doctor’s prescription is needed. The technique is totally painless and non-invasive and neither the mother nor the baby should experience discomfort during the procedure.
A conductive gel is applied to the mother’s abdomen and the technician glides a transducer on the mother’s abdomen. At this point both the mother and the person/s accompanying her are able to see images of her uterus and her baby on a monitor within view.
The technician will explain in detail what you are seeing on the screen and also take the necessary measurements to check the development of the baby.
The major difference between a 2D ultrasound and a 3D or 4D ultrasound is the clarity of the images produced. This more advanced sonogram machine takes images from several different angles and reveals very detailed images of the growing fetus, including very clear images of facial features, facial expressions and even slight movements made by the baby during the procedure.
The benefits of a 3D ultrasound for expectant moms and dads
Occasionally a standard ultrasound may indicate a problem and a 4D ultrasound might be needed to confirm if there is an abnormality, however many pregnant mothers choose a 3D or a 4D ultrasound to take a close look at the baby, as after 25 weeks of gestation, it is easy to see the baby’s features clearly.
3D/4D ultrasounds also provide a higher accuracy when it comes to the determination of the baby’s sex. (At 17weeks the accuracy rises above 90%)
The major benefit of an elective 4D ultrasound is the increased bonding with the child and the possibility for both parents to physically see their baby’s features and be reassured that all is well with the pregnancy.
This has special significance in a context where the parents are excessively preoccupied about their baby’s health because they have been through the traumatic experience of a miscarriage or prolonged infertility.
Click here to learn more about what to expect from a 3D ultrasound
A final note – the risks of a 3D ultrasound
Though fetal ultrasounds are considered safe, improper use of fetal ultra sound is not risk free.
The FDA advises caution when it comes to these exams. With respect to this relatively new technology where higher energy levels are used, many physicians express concern about the safety level of this procedure and strongly advice against unnecessary elective scans.
Women considering a 4D ultrasound should speak to their doctor regarding the safety of this procedure and should always make sure that their test is done by a licensed and experience sonographer, as this procedure can be potentially harmful and produce incorrect results in the wrong hands.
“Fetal Ultrasound” Harvard Health publications www. health.harvard.com
“What is a 4D ultrasound?” wisegeek.com
“Fetal ultrasound” MayoClinic.com