3D sonograms are an ultrasound technique used during pregnancy to provide three dimensional images of an unborn fetus. A typical sonogram will produce sound waves that are directed towards the unborn child which are then reflected back onto a screen for the Sonographer and Mother to see. The 3D sonogram differs from a 2D sonogram in the fact that it sends sound waves to the fetus from different angles. The returning waves are then processed through a computer program that reconstructs them into a picture that displays the surface of the fetus as well as the internal organs. This methodology is similar to CT scans which utilize x-rays to create an image. CT scans do not show any movement whereas a 3D sonogram will.
The equipment used for a 3D sonogram looks similar to the equipment used for the traditional 2D sonogram. The doctor rubs the mechanism on the belly, and the image shows up on the screen. A 3D sonogram cannot be viewed immediately like a 2D sonogram as the 3D image must be processed through special software by a trained Sonographer. As this technology becomes more popular amongst expecting mothers, more Sonography departments are utilizing equipment that will produce both a 2D image as well as a 3D image. Yes a 3D image will provide the parents with a much clearer image of the fetus, but it is unclear if a 3D sonogram will ever replace the benefits of a 2D image.
The first 3D sonogram scanner was introduced by researchers at Duke University Medical Center in 1987. They developed the machinery specifically for looking at the patient’s heart without having to open up the chest cavity. Like many other inventions, technology continues to expand on the original idea. 3D sonograms have progressed to being used in all specialties of the medical field to include diagnosis of diseases that weren’t possible prior to this new technology. The 3D sonogram is now commonplace with its increase in popularity over the last 5 years.
While there are always risks with any sort of sonogram, there are many benefits of utilizing the 3D technology that is now available. The 3D sonogram has become the preferred method of scanning amongst many doctors because it provides a clearer image. With this clearer image a doctor may be able to prevent irreversible problems that they were not able to detect with the 2D scans.
Being able to see the baby in a 3 dimensional image allows the mother to relax more throughout the pregnancy. The pregnancy also becomes more “real” for many parents as they see the 3 dimensional image of their child. Sometimes a 2D image must be analyzed prior to seeing the outline of the unborn child as it cannot be seen by the mother at first glance. Being able to recognize the baby’s features is another advantage of using a 3D sonogram vs a 2D sonogram. This also allows the father to create more of a bond prior the new born arrival.
At this point in its advancement, 3D sonograms will not replace 2D sonograms, but they do provide a wonderful view and potential health benefits. However, mothers should continue with the traditional 2D sonograms until the 3D sonograms have become safer in the first trimester. In many cases, doctors opt not to offer the 3D sonogram option until the second trimester to ensure the fetus’s health. With that being said, most parents don’t mind the wait.