It used to be that when you showed your friends your fuzzy, gray ultrasound pictures you had to explain what they were seeing.
With today's 3D and 4D ultrasound technology, parents can view the fetus in great detail, and the pictures taken are remarkable. The ultrasound viewing is done in comfortable surroundings, and Mom and Dad can take a "portrait" home, as well as a DVD if they wish.
Ultrasounds are common in many pregnancies. Healthcare providers frequently request that their patients have an ultrasound performed at various crucial stages in the pregnancy.
With ultrasound, a small transducer sends sound waves into the body, which reflect off internal structures, including the baby. The sound waves or echoes that reflect back are received by the transducer and translated into a picture on a screen that can also be printed out.
Ultrasounds are done for numerous reasons, including determining the age, sex, and size of the baby, the position of the baby and placenta, or if there is more than one baby. The ultrasound can also be used to detect certain birth defects or evaluate the baby's heart rate, movement, and general well-being.
Views Like Never Before
According to GE Medical Systems, the difference between 3D and 4D Ultrasound represents the difference between video and a still photograph. 4D stands for "four-dimensional," which refers to the fourth dimension of time. These ultrasounds take three-dimensional ultrasound images and adds the element of time to the process. The result: Live-action images of your unborn child or of any internal anatomy, offering a view that could possibly help physicians and sonographers to better analyze fetal development.
A 3D ultrasound uses the same basic concept of a 2D ultrasound, but rather than take the image from a single angle, the sonographer takes a "volume" image. The volume image that is displayed on the screen is a software rendering of all of the detected soft-tissue, producing a still image.
A 4D ultrasound (also referred to as "real-time 3D") extends the concept by taking numerous images in rapid succession. The result of these images displayed in succession is a motion video of the baby.
3-D and 4-D Facilities
Ultrasound centers like Stork Snapshots, in Naperville, Illinois, and Grand View Ultrasound, Saint Paul, Minnesota, offer pregnant women between 20 to 36 weeks gestation an opportunity to view their baby through 3D or 4D ultrasound in a comfortable setting. At Grand View, it is a "home-like" atmosphere (bed, soft music, dim lights, sheets and towels, and a nicely decorated studio with plenty of room) where family and friends are encouraged to join in the ultrasound viewing.
"Mom and family are able to see the baby in flesh-tone color, count fingers and/or toes, and compare facial features to see who the baby most resembles. If the baby is active they may be able to see it smile, yawn, kick, swallow, stretch, and make funny faces. To see the baby as a real baby makes it so much more real for the mom, dad, siblings, and everyone present. It enhances the prenatal experience and strengthens the bond with all of those present," says Jane Sieckert, of Grand View Ultrasound.
If parents wish, the gender of the baby is usually discernible. "It is often very obvious what the gender is when looking at it in 3D or 4D. Our certified sonographers spend as much time as needed with each mom and family, letting them view their baby, hear and see the heart beat, ask questions, and just watch their beautiful baby," she adds.