As the name suggests, this is ultrasound scanning that gives you a three-dimensional
image. This therefore represents a static image in three dimension as opposed to
the traditional 2 dimensional image. It also differs from a 4D scan as we shall see
What is 4D Ultrasound?
This is 3D ultrasound with an added (fourth) dimension which is motion. Whilst in
3D scanning the image is static, in 4D, the images are moving. A 4D baby scan therefore
allows the examiner and the mother to see the baby and all its activities in real
Is this a different type of Ultrasound technology and is it safe?
3D and 4D scanning utilises the same technology as the traditional 2D scanning.
It has been around for several years but it is only recently with the advent of much
more computing power and consequently the coming down of the technology cost that
it has come into the mainstream. Before that it was only confined to research units
because of prohibitive costs. Like traditional 2D ultrasound, it is regarded to be
What is this type of scan used for?
In pregnancy care, 4D ultrasound does not yet offer the doctors much more than what
traditional 2D scanning has always offered. It is a lot different for the prospective
parents though. There is no doubt that traditional ultrasound images could be quite
difficult for the untrained eye to work out.
Whilst it has always been the case that images of a moving unborn baby is deeply
fulfilling for parents, 4D scanning moves this to a completely new level. The images
are a lot more life-like and quite impressive. Parents can certainly appreciate all
that the baby is up to almost as much as the medical personnel.
In the UK, 4D scanning is not available on the NHS. Why is this?
It is true that routine 4D baby scanning is not currently available on the NHS.
This is for the reason mentioned above that, for diagnostic purposes, it does not
presently offer significantly more that traditional 2D ultrasound. Moreover, the
machines for performing this type of scan do require a significant financial outlay
and presently there is no real justification for this.
It is said that 4D ultrasound is very good for pre-natal bonding. Is there any evidence
There has been a lot of scientific studies over the years to see the benefits of
ultrasound scan in pregnancy apart from the obvious medical ones. Several of these
have shown that indeed, the visualization of a moving image of the baby on screen
does provoke deep parental emotions.
With the advent of wide-spread availability of 4D ultrasound scanning and the life-like
moving images it provides, further studies have been done to look at this aspect
of bonding and on balance many seem to confirm this. Some summarized study results
can be found here.