3D Scans

A 3D pregnancy scan uses the same sort of principles as standard ultrasounds but with enhanced technology. This allows for greater and clearer images of the baby within the mother’s uterus, which creates an even more memorable and intimate experience for the mother and any other attending parent or person. 3D ultrasounds offer visualisation only one step away from 4D scans (see our relevant page for details).

How does it work?

Regular ‘2D’ ultrasounds use sound waves which are directed into the mother’s uterus with a transducer device and reflected back. These ‘echoes’ are transformed into electrical pulses and sent to the ultrasonic scanner, where they form a picture of the developing baby and its surroundings. This two-dimensional image is taken a step further with 3D scans, as the ultrasound waves are emitted and reflected at various angles simultaneously. Via surface rendering, these multiple images are accurately interpreted into an astonishing 3D visualisation of the baby.

3D compared with 2D

3D ultrasounds are not replacements for regular scans, as the best time for a 3D scan is around 27 to 34 weeks into pregnancy. For dating scans and even anomaly scans, 2D is still regularly the best option. The level of surface detail is greatly increased in 3D scans, so that facial and bodily features are displayed with far more precision than before, though only a single image is displayed. Such advances can be useful for the sonographer to pinpoint any anomalies more quickly, and more accurately assess the continuing formation of the baby’s organs, limbs and so forth. Parents are frequently stunned by the feeling of intimacy the technology provides, as the images can show the baby’s appearance and track foetal movements with impressive clarity.

Personal choice

This is not to say that 2D ultrasounds are not wonderful for parents, and some professionals warn of the potential anxiety caused by 3D scans due to increased risk of false positives. Because the surface detail is so advanced, minor irregularities such as benign cysts are detected. With 2D scans these would likely be missed, and therefore much stressful testing and upset would be avoided. An inexperienced sonographer may also show ‘artifacts’ during the scan, which are misleading translations of the sound waves resulting in the false appearance of things like holes. It is a personal choice whether you feel the possibility of heightened anxiety outweighs the benefits of a 3D scan.

Availability and providers

It is easy to see the appeal of 3D ultrasound scans, but you must always put safety and practical concerns as your top priorities. As 3D scans are usually available through the private sector in the UK, ensuring that you find a suitable facility to carry out any scan is of paramount importance. Ask whether the sonographer is certified and has the relevant experience. Also listen to word of mouth from mothers and friends who have used these scans, as this will be the most reliable indicator of quality. Cost is another factor, and these scans can cost between £150 and £250 on average.

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