What is 3D Ultrasound, Know its Risks, Benefits, Purpose, Safety

What exactly is 3D Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is an imaging test, which uses sound waves to capture the images of the uterus and the fetus growing inside the mother’s womb. What separates 3D ultrasound from a regular ultrasound is that a 3D ultrasound generates three-dimensional images of the baby, which gives detailed information of the development of the baby. The images of 3D ultrasound show a 3-dimensional image of the baby in a clearer manner and from different angles when compared to a 2D ultrasound. This additional benefit of the 3D ultrasound producing three-dimensional images helps in minutely checking the physical development of the baby, such as the development of the arms, legs, abdomen, head, facial features, fingers, toes and other such small details. This is essential so that if there are any abnormalities in the baby, the obstetrician will be prepared and can chart a pre-determined plan in advance. 3D ultrasound is done with the help of sound waves sent into the uterus to capture the images of the baby as well as the uterus. These sound waves are transmitted via an imaging probe, which is usually placed on the mother’s abdomen.

What exactly is 3D Ultrasound?

What are the 3D Ultrasound Risks?

3D ultrasound is an optional procedure suggested by the doctors wherein more advanced technology is used to assess the condition of baby and mother. 3D ultrasound enables the doctor to assess what kind of disease is prevailing within the patient and what steps would be feasible to treat them. While 3D ultrasound is generally considered a safe procedure, there are still certain risks and concerns attached to it, which should be taken into consideration by the doctor and the patient before opting for 3D ultrasound. Some of the 3D Ultrasound Risks are:

  • The sound waves used in 3D ultrasound are rather safe, but they may raise the temperature of the tissues that are targeted during this scan. Hence, due care should be taken by the professional carrying out the 3D ultrasound ensuring that no harm is caused to the tissue of the patient.
  • Due to the rise in temperature, some doctors believe that the procedure may cause some damage to the tissues and also there may be formation of pockets of gas in the tissue and fluids from the increased temperature.
  • One more risk with 3D ultrasound is, when the probe is placed over the part of the fetus, which is being visualised, the fetus may feel the heat and the vibrations generated from the probe and hence move away.
  • There is a risk of visualisation of artefacts on 3D ultrasound, such as duplication of parts of body or missing parts in the fetus etc. This risk of artefacts is more if the 3D ultrasound is done by an inexperienced person.
  • One more 3D ultrasound risk is the risk of false positives, which can cause distress to the concerned people. For example, some harmless cysts of the fetus show up more clearly on a 3D ultrasound, which can lead to further unnecessary and more invasive investigations.
  • In order to get a better picture of the baby for a keepsake, the ultrasound technician may prompt the mother to drink coffee to stimulate the baby. This is not advisable as excessive caffeine intake can slow the baby’s growth.
  • 3D ultrasound risk also includes aggressive manipulation of the patient’s belly by an inexperienced ultrasound technician.
  • There is one psychological factor supposed to be playing a part in 3D ultrasound risk. As the 3D ultrasound generates three-dimensional images of the baby, the mother can see her baby more clearly and the theory is that this may decrease the bonding between the mother and her baby.
  • Though the long-term effects of the damage caused by the rise in temperature due to 3D ultrasound are not known, the frequency of the 3D ultrasound should be restricted.
  • While there are no proven theories, in the recent years some medical practitioners are warning against the use of 3D ultrasound procedures.
  • The mixed views about the 3D ultrasound technology are not supported by any favourable scientific evidence.
  • To avoid any other risks, it is essential to get the 3D ultrasound done by a professional so that this procedure is performed in a proper and safe manner.
  • There is a risk of 3D ultrasound bringing about some skin infection if proper hygiene measures are not followed. To avoid this possibility, proper maintenance and cleaning of the probe should be done by the practitioner.

How Safe is 3D Ultrasound?

The 3D ultrasound is generally considered safe, as there is no use of radiation, insertion of any chemical solutions or use of needles and injections. 3D ultrasound is done using sound waves which helps in capturing clear images of the uterus and the fetus for further study of the pregnancy.

What is the Purpose of 3D Ultrasound?

The main purpose of 3D ultrasound is to determine the growth of the baby according to the gestational age, as well as to identify any abnormalities in the baby or in the uterus. The identification of physical abnormalities, such as cleft lips and stunted growth of the limbs or spinal cord helps to take the necessary measures for the protection of the pregnancy and to determine the necessary steps in the future. 3D ultrasound is also done to determine the adequacy of the amniotic fluid and placement of the placenta, which is essential for a safe pregnancy.

What is the Frequency of 3D Ultrasound?

The 3D ultrasound is suggested only once and is optional.

What are the Benefits of 3D Ultrasound?

The advantages of 3D ultrasound are many, one of the major one being able to see the baby’s face clearly for the first time. Other advantages are listed as follows:

  • 3D ultrasound gives a clear picture of the baby and the uterus. Parents can see the features of their baby, such as eyes, ears, nose and mouth more clearly instead of the grey blurry image seen on a standard ultrasound.
  • 3D ultrasound helps to study the growth of the baby and the progression of the pregnancy much better when compared to a regular ultrasound.
  • 3D ultrasound helps in generating more detailed images of the baby from different angles. So, 3D ultrasound is a great boon in detecting birth defects of the baby.
  • 3D ultrasound helps the doctors to accurately study the anatomical results, which also helps in better explaining of the results to the patient owing to the much clearer images.
  • 3D ultrasound helps in better assessment of any abnormalities.
  • The 3D images give a better picture of the development of the baby’s heart.
  • 3D ultrasound helps to identify signs of physical malformations in the baby or certain birth defects, which will not show in a regular ultrasound such as cleft palate or clubfoot, more easily and more early on in pregnancy. This will help the doctor and the mother to be mentally prepared beforehand and helps the doctor determine the best course of action needed after the baby’s birth.
  • 3D ultrasound helps in more accurate determination of the adequacy of amniotic fluid.
  • 3D ultrasound helps in better location or viewing of the placement of the placenta.
  • 3D ultrasound helps in better assessment of the umbilical cord.
  • 3D ultrasound helps in determination of the position and placement of the baby.
  • 3D ultrasound easily helps in identifying and determining certain conditions like ectopic pregnancy.
  • The results of 3D ultrasound are usually accurate and any chances of misreading are quite rare.

Why is Ultrasound Done in Pregnancy?

Ultrasound is an imaging test, which is mandatory for every expecting mother to track the progress of her pregnancy. Ultrasound uses sound waves to capture the images of the uterus and the fetus growing inside. Ultrasound is helpful in tracking the growth of the fetus, from a tiny embryo to a baby. Ultrasound records the size of the body parts according to the gestational age of the baby. In addition to the growth, ultrasound is useful to identify any abnormalities in the baby or in the uterine condition, which can help to predict the viability of the pregnancy along with any problems with the pregnancy. There are three types of ultrasounds performed during the whole course of the pregnancy, 2D, 3D and 4D ultrasounds.


The 3D ultrasound technology is helpful in many ways to study the pregnancy. While some believe that the sound waves used in 3D ultrasound may cause damage to the tissues in and around the uterus, there are no definite results or proofs that support such theories. Therefore, the only care that is suggested to be adhered to is that 3D ultrasound (or any other type of ultrasound) be done by an experienced professional. This will ensure that the procedure is performed in a systematic and proper manner, not just to get accurate results, but also for a safe execution of the 3D ultrasound procedure. It is highly stressed that a 3D ultrasound be done for medical purpose only and not for entertainment purpose, such as simply to have a clear image of the baby in utero to be kept as memento.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 4, 2017

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