Difference Between 2D, 3D, And 4D Ultrasounds

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So if you’re pregnant, it’s quite common to get ultrasounds, although it’s not always strictly required. But technology has come quite far and your regular 2D ultrasound is no longer the only option. You now have 3D and 4D ultrasounds as well. All these options can be a bit overwhelming for new parents, especially if you’re not really aware of the differences. 3D and 4D ultrasounds are not really pushed on you by any means, and often, insurance doesn’t cover them. So let’s get into these differences.

2D Ultrasounds

Your regular run-of-the-mill ultrasound. You’ll see a black and white picture on the screen, a flat picture. You can see the baby’s bones in white. 2D ultrasounds are usually done early in the pregnancy so it can be confirmed and you can learn the due date, It’s usually repeated at around the 20 week mark (or a little before) to check that the baby has no growth or development issues, and also to check the sex of the baby if you wish to know. 

3D and 4D Ultrasounds

In 2D ultrasounds, you can see the baby’s internal organs, but with 3D and 4D ultrasounds, you can see the baby’s skin. You can see your baby’s face, the shape of its mouth and nose, and some doctors use it to spot birth defects.

3D ultrasounds are specifically useful to diagnose issues like heart problems and cleft lip or cleft palate. You can also get an idea of any issues in the skeletal structure. There’s more data available for doctors to look at after the scan, and it’s easier to detect any conditions or problems.

In 4D ultrasounds, you can perhaps catch if the baby is yawning or sucking its thumb, or performing a similar activity. You can see the heart wall and the blood flow. You get a video as a keepsake instead of just a photo.
It can be quite delightful for prospective parents and be exciting in a way that a 2D ultrasound simply isn’t. It allows the parents to be able to see their baby clearly to some extent.

If your procedure is being performed by a medical professional who is good at what they do, it’s possible that issues like defects will be spotted by them anyways. But if you land up with someone who’s not as much of an expert, then these ultrasounds can be helpful. 

Is it safe?

Actually, 3D and 4D ultrasounds are quite popular; parents just want to see the foetus properly. They are, however, optional. The people working on the ultrasound might not necessarily be able to spot medical issues, and these ultrasounds aren’t for the purpose of spotting medical issues. It’s usually to give parents a nice keepsake to take home, whether it be a photo or a video.

While research has shown it’s more or less safe, doctors will hardly insist on such a thing unless they suspect a medical issue. The reason some people caution against this is because it often unnecessarily exposes your baby to an ultrasound, beyond what is required. 3D and 4D ultrasounds use high ultrasound energy for the scans, which might have side-effects on the foetus. Especially if you do them at a commercial centre and not a medical centre (in fact, studios can often get quite expensive, especially for a photo or DVD of the baby).

Ultimately, it does depend on what you strongly feel and whether your doctor has recommended a certain course of action. If you’re aiming to get a 2D or 3D ultrasound purely for a nice photo or video, it’s certainly very popular these days, but does come with a small risk. Commercial ultrasounds can actually last much longer than is required for the baby, and sometimes you can’t control these things. If you wish to eliminate any and all risks altogether, you may just have to settle for a 2D ultrasound.

The bottom line

Of course, if your doctor insists on a 3D or 4D ultrasound for medical reasons, that’s an entirely different case altogether. But otherwise, it might be slightly better to err on the side of caution when it comes to these ultrasounds. If you really want a keepsake, make sure the ultrasound is performed at a clinic and a trusted medical professional is doing it. Make sure also that you’ve discussed the matter with your doctor because your baby’s health is of vital importance.