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What is 3D Ultrasound?

Updated on September 13, 2009

An ultrasound is a medical procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to generate images of a person’s internal organs or tissues. Since the early sixties, doctors and parents-to-be have used ultrasounds to monitor the health and development of fetuses leading up to birth. Ultrasounds can map the inside of the uterus to collect information on the size of position of the fetus, identify birth defects, and determine the baby’s due date. Ultrasounds have become so common that most American women have between 1 and 3 ultrasounds during one pregnancy.

Newest Ultrasound Technology

The first 3D Ultrasound was developed in Japan in 1984, and recent advances in computer technology and imaging have increased its popularity. 3D Ultrasounds are like traditional ultrasounds, except that the images of the fetus are three-dimensional, showing doctors and parents what the baby actually looks like in the womb. The baby’s movements are easier to see in a 3D Ultrasound. Parents can see their baby sucking its thumb, stretching, or sleeping.

How to Get a 3D Ultrasound

Some doctor’s offices have the equipment to produce 3D Ultrasounds, so contact your physician to ask if this is an option for you. If you have not yet chosen a physician, you can select one that offers 3D Ultrasounds. Several private facilities now offer 3D Ultrasound sessions so that you can get a 3D Ultrasound even if your personal physician does not have the equipment.

Your doctor can give you 3D Ultrasound snapshots to take home as your first portrait of your baby, or you can also get a 4D (3D “movie”) of the movements of your baby during the ultrasound process.

2D vs. 3D Ultrasounds

Though the clear images and recorded movements of a 3D Ultrasound make it in some ways more appealing to eager parents than a traditional 2D Ultrasound, there are some conditions and situations that cannot be detected with 3D Ultrasound. The new technology has gained mass appeal for its lifelike images, but traditional 2D Ultrasounds are still the most effective way of monitoring a fetus’s development.

Ultrasounds as Entertainment

Some manufacturers such as General Electric are now offering “fetal portrait” studios that offer parents 3D/4D sessions without a physician at all. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has denounced this practice, warning that “Persons who promote, sell or lease ultrasound equipment for making “keepsake” fetal videos should know that FDA view this as an unapproved use of a medical device.”


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  • Philipo profile image

    Philipo 8 years ago from Nigeria

    Very nice. Thanks for educating.

  • thelesleyshow profile image

    TheLesleyShow 8 years ago from US

    These are so cool! They used to have a store in the mall that did these images for you for around $100 but they went out of business.

  • profile image

    Scott.Life 8 years ago

    Neat stuff, I would imagine this could also be used in the treatment of tumors and other similar growths.Very informative.