Today, the new technology of 3D 4D Ultrasound provides the opportunity for expectant parents to see their baby’s face and movements in the womb for the first time. With HD live 3D 4D ultrasound, they can watch much clearer images and videos of their unborn baby, compared to older ultrasound technologies.
Ultrasound (also known as Sonogram or sonography) has been used for medical diagnostic purposes since mid-1950s. Technically, ultrasound is the same as sound waves but the frequency of sound waves in ultrasound is much more than what we can hear. A transducer probe transmits the high-frequency sound waves through the abdominal wall and uterus to the fetus (baby). Then, the waves bounce off the baby and return back to the ultrasound machine. Finally, the machine converts the bounced waves to 2-Dimensional (2D) or 3-Dimensional (3D) images that we can see.
Ultrasound in Pregnancy:
In Obstetrics, 2-dimensional (2D) ultrasound is the standard method for evaluation and diagnosis of pregnancy conditions, but it just creates flat gray images. Typically, 2D ultrasound is the well-known tool for evaluation of the growth and development of the fetus in the uterus. It is also a helpful device to diagnose pregnancy abnormalities such as pregnancy in abnormal place (i.e. ectopic) and placenta separation (i.e. abruption). Determination of baby’s gender and detection of twin and multiple pregnancies are other uses of 2D ultrasound technique. Although we can sometimes determine the baby’s gender as early as the week 13 or 14 of pregnancy, it will be more accurate and reliable after the week 25 of pregnancy. Usually, performing 2D ultrasound for medical purposes needs a doctor’s prescription and is covered by health insurance.
2D Ultrasound image shows gender (Baby boy):
Differences between 2D, 3D and 4D Ultrasound
The mechanism of three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound is basically the same as 2D ultrasound. The main difference is that in 3D ultrasound, the machine sends the waves at different angles. Then, it combines and processes the wave echoes in a complex way to produce three-dimensional images. The following images are 3D pictures:
3D Ultrasound Images:
Physicians and radiologists utilize 3D ultrasound for medical and diagnostic purposes such as diagnosis of fetal anomalies (see below). Furthermore, it is a useful tool for the expectant parents who cannot wait more to see their baby’s face and body in the womb.
Four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound is much more complex and can show movements of the baby inside the womb. Technically, 4D ultrasound consists of three spatial dimensions (3D) plus one dimension of time. It includes a series of 3D volumes that are collected over time and can show the movements of the fetus in the uterus*. In 4D ultrasound technique, the successive recorded images can be played in succession as a video to show the baby’s facial expressions and body movement. The excited parents can watch their baby’s smiling, yawning and sucking thumb or toes, etc. in the womb! These moving images can create stronger bonds between them and their still unborn loved one.
4D Video: 18-week baby girl in the womb
4D Video: 28 weeks baby girl in the womb
3D & 4D ultrasound images are useful for medical and diagnostic purposes, as well. They can show certain fetal anomalies and birth defects such as cleft lip and baby’s heart or kidney defects. These fetal defects may not be detectable on standard 2D ultrasound.
Long-term studies have shown that ultrasound, in general, is a safe modality for diagnosis of many diseases without any adverse effect. It is safe for both pregnant woman and her baby. This is true about 2D ultrasound as well as 3D and 4D ultrasound,
Factors that Affect the Quality of Baby’s 3D & 4D Images
There are a variety of factors that can affect the quality of the baby’s photos and videos in a 3D 4D ultrasound procedure. In general, the quality of 3D & 4D ultrasound images depends on the technician, the machine and the materno-fetal factors. The latter includes the placenta and position of baby in the womb, the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby and the mother’s body build and thickness of her abdominal wall.
We should keep in mind that during a 3D 4D ultrasound session we should be calm and patient. Sometimes, we may need to wait a long time without performing ultrasound procedure till the time the baby changes his/her position in the womb.
In earlier weeks of pregnancy, the baby is small and there is less fat accumulated in the body and face. So, we should not expect to see “chubby cheeks” and “fleshy” extremities. In this period, we are usually able to see the whole baby’s body in one ultrasound view.
Amount of Amniotic Fluid around the Baby
We need adequate amount of amniotic fluid around the baby to see the baby more clearly by ultrasound. In addition, other parts, such as placenta, umbilical cord or even baby’s hands or legs may obscure the baby’s face. It is possible to cut these obscuring parts off the baby’s face by adjusting the ultrasound machine, but this may affect the clarity of the images and the photos and videos may look blurred.
In order to get good amount of amniotic fluid around the baby’s face and body, the mother may need to change her position during the ultrasound procedure. The change of mother’s position may also help to move the umbilical cord or placenta farther away from the baby’s face.
Mother’s position on the ultrasound bed
After 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is usually better to lie down on your side, mostly the left side, during ultrasound procedure. This position prevents pressure of the enlarged uterus on the large vessels which go to your heart. As a result, the blood circulation in your body and to the placenta and the baby will increase. This will protect the mother and baby’s health and safety during ultrasound procedure which is our first priority.
If you feel uncomfortable or are in any kind of pain, you should inform the technician to stop the ultrasound procedure or change your position.
After finishing the ultrasound procedure, change your position slowly. Sit for a while on the ultrasound bed as your body needs to get used to the new position and not to get dizzy. Wait till the light is on and then get off the bed.
New Ultrasound Technology: HD Live Images
The latest version of a high definition (HD) ultrasound machines (including our machine) have a new option called “Realistic vue (view)“ or “HD Live“. An ultrasound machine with “Realistic View” captures images and videos with higher resolution, more details & depth. The images have more natural appearance (similar to real pink baby’s skin) compared to the pictures of the older 3D ultrasound machines that are yellowish and low quality. You can compare the following images to see the differences or visit our Gallery to see more examples.
Our Ultrasound Machine:
Our high tech ultrasound machine in Baby SonoShow can develop all types of images and videos from your baby. Its products include 2D, 3D and 4D images with and without Realistic view, as per your request. We also can determine the gender of your baby after 13 weeks of pregnancy. Detecting and recording your baby’s heartbeats after 7 weeks of pregnancy is possible by ultrasound. All of our services in Baby SonoShow are non-medical and non-diagnostic. To learn more about our services, click here.
Medical uses of 3D 4d Ultrasound
The 3D ultrasound technology has been available since more than 30 years ago. It has primarily been a tool for earlier, better and easier diagnosis of birth defects and congenital anomalies of the fetus before birth. During last decade, its technology significantly improved. As a result, it became a common modality for better and more accurate diagnosis of birth defects such as cleft lip and clubfoot before the baby is born. This is especially important when the experts are not sure about the diagnosis of birth defects after performing a 2D ultrasound procedure.
3D ultrasound images allows physicians to see the real features of the baby’s face and body parts. In this way, diagnosis of genetic or familial syndromes is possible several months before birth. 3D ultrasound can show the fluid-filled organs of the fetus such as brain ventricles, stomach and intestine to find out congenital fetal anomalies in these structures.
4D ultrasound is especially useful for visualizing the moving parts. It has offered an innovative modality for evaluation of baby’s heart and its moving chambers and valves.
One of the important markers of the fetal growth and health in the womb is the Estimated Fetal Weight. Traditionally, baby’s abdominal circumference, bi-parietal diameter/head circumference (head size) and femoral (thigh bone) length of the baby have been useful markers of Estimated Fetal Weight. Recently, by using 3D ultrasound, measurement of the baby’s thigh volume has increased the precision of calculated Estimated Fetal Weight and the baby’s nutritional status in the womb.