4D Ultrasound: The New Ultrasound

Ultrasound testing has always offered up a thrill to expectant mothers anxious for a glimpse of their baby. But now there's a new kind of ultrasound test that exceeds the thrill of the traditional 2D technology and families are using the new testing to bond with their infants before the birth. The 4D ultrasound offers a picture with tremendous depth that allows a parent to note that the baby's chin looks just like Grandma's.

The traditional, 2D ultrasound has been in used in obstetrics for almost 4 decades and its safety has been well-established. Ultrasound works by interpreting reflected sound waves so they form an image of the fetus. In 2D ultrasound, only a single plain of the image is "heard." There is a straight, up and down path for the sound waves and their reflection. Imagine slicing a virtual chocolate cake. The image appearing on your screen is like looking at only the face of the slice of cake.

3D ultrasound employs a technique called surface rendering. The sound waves are sent down at different angles and sophisticated software is used to interpret the reflections, resulting in a 3D image of the fetus. Going back to the chocolate cake analogy, you would see much greater surface detail such as tiny air bubbles in the swirls of chocolate frosting.

Live Film

4D ultrasound is much like 3D ultrasound except that instead of viewing a single, still image (3D), you can see a live film of the fetus.

Since the advent of these new technologies, centers have opened up just to provide this service to parents who want to see their babies-to-be. These new centers have nothing to do with diagnostic testing. This has led to a great deal of criticism. But the bottom line is that if the centers are using equipment that passes safety standards, there's no health risk to mother or baby.

Some doctors insist that too many ultrasounds can't be good. But there's a counter argument: if increased exposure to ultrasound poses a risk, why are women with high-risk pregnancies sent for many more ultrasound tests than women with healthy, normal pregnancies?

Further Concerns

Other doctors are concerned that mothers will substitute these tests for the diagnostic ultrasounds prescribed by their doctors. There is a further concern that a technician may attempt to provide diagnostic information that properly belongs to the realm of the physician.

Still, parents are finding that the 4D ultrasound test provides them with an incredible bonding experience. Expectant mothers feel that the experience of 4D ultrasound has a positive impact on their pregnancies. Recent studies back up this contention and have found that mothers who undergo elective 4D ultrasound testing take care to improve their diets and overall lifestyles.

If you're thinking of having one of these new-fangled ultrasounds, check with your doctor first and make sure you have the regular obstetric diagnostic ultrasound, first. Check that the 4D ultrasound center uses the system's obstetric mode with FDA-approved levels of power and frequency for use during pregnancy. Scans should be limited to fewer than 25 minutes per session.


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