For years, women have depended on the traditional ultrasound machine to catch a glimpse of the stages of their pregnancies, as well as the overall health, size and, position of the developing baby. Thank to technological advancements in the ultrasound market, 3D and 4D ultrasound imaging equipment have become available.
How Ultrasound Works
Before delving into the high-tech world of 3D and 4D, it’s important to understand the way a sonography machine works. Once a gel is applied to the mother’s skin, the ultrasound transducer probe is responsible for sending out high-frequency sound waves through the body. Once they hit a dense structure (such as bone), these waves are able to reflect and bounce back to the scanner and then produces an image onto the screen. Because it isn’t usually invasive to the mother, ultrasound tends to be generally safe for her and her baby. Conventional ultrasounds are known for producing 2D images onto the screen. These images are made up of individual “slices” that are shown on the screen one slice at a time. While still informative, the images produce tend to not represent the figure of a baby.
What are the differences between 3D and 4D ultrasound?
The 3D ultrasound machine is capable of producing an image that is much more in depth. It works by digitally storing and shading a volume of echoes that were taken to create a life-like image of the developing baby. In other words, it captures multiple 2D images from a variety of angles and combines them to form the 3D image on the monitor.
The 4D ultrasound takes the images that were produced through a 3D ultrasound and adds movement to those images. Thanks to 4D, a mother can witness her developing baby move its fingers, yawn, suck its thumb, and even open its eyes. Additionally, these developments allow ultrasound technicians and gynecologists to have a better understanding of the overall state of the fetus and can study its activity and movements.
It should be noted that image and movement quality does depend on the stage of the baby.
How are 3D and 4D ultrasounds performed?
Both 3D and 4D ultrasound follow the same routine as the traditional 2D ultrasound. A mother lies on the table with her stomach exposed and the technician puts gel on it to allow easy movement of the ultrasound probe. Once the ultrasound transducer probe is placed on the stomach, it transfers sound waves to the stomach which then echo back and produces images onto the ultrasound monitor.
Why are 3D and 4D ultrasounds performed?
Over the years, 2D ultrasounds have been helpful in detecting developmental issues and/or birth defects. However, because they provide more detailed images, 3D and 4D ultrasounds can help in identifying other issues such as cleft lips.
3D and 4D ultrasound also make it possible to reveal more details about the fetus’ health and what its movement along the pregnancy may mean. By being able to watch the baby shift positions and breathe, doctors and technicians can assess any problems that may be occurring during the developmental stages.
While a major breakthrough in prenatal care, 3D and 4D ultrasounds are often used to provide the parents with a keepsake more than anything else; it is a way to promote bonding between the mother and her child because she is able to see a physical image of what her baby looks like. It has not yet become a regular part of prenatal care.
Why 3D and 4D May Not Be For Everyone
Just like any other diagnostic imaging, 4D ultrasound requires a doctor’s order and for a specific medical purpose to be present. While the consumer and ultrasound market are advocating for 4D ultrasounds, it has the potential to pose for some (undiscovered) risks. There is no proven benefit over 2D images, so insurance companies aren’t always likely to cover the 4D ultrasound machine cost. Regardless, some parents who are expecting choose to overlooks these unforeseen risks and costs because they are eager to see their child; however, most expecting parents still choose to take the traditional route and wait until the baby is born to see what he or she looks like.
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