Are 3D Ultrasounds Safe During Pregnancy?

It’s a tempting idea: Doing a 3D ultrasound for close look at your baby months before you can hold him in your arms. Now that seems like a fun way to get excited for your final trimester!

But are 3D ultrasounds safe during pregnancy? The ubiquitous kiosks at the mall selling keepsake 3D and even 4D photos of your baby in-utero certainly lead you to believe they are. Ultrasounds are known to be a very safe, low-risk technology, and your doctor has probably already done one or two, plus there’s the big anatomy scan at your halfway point. So what’s another one at 26 to 30 weeks, to get a really good look at your baby’s features? No big deal, right?

But although 3D ultrasounds are readily available, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a strong advisory discouraging expectant moms against their use and the use of all non-medical fetal imaging. They cite concerns about the prolonged exposure to ultrasound energy, which can heat exposed tissue and cause tiny bubbles, known as cavitation, the effects of which aren’t known. 3D ultrasounds can last as long as 30 minutes, which is far longer than the sonogram scans obstetricians conduct in their exam rooms. The FDA also expressed concerns about moms undergoing these ultrasounds with poorly-trained users running the equipment.

(This isn’t the only technology they’re concerned about: in the same statement, the FDA advised against the use of at-home fetal heartbeat monitors, because of concerns about the levels of energy that might be reaching the babies.)

The insatiably curious and memento-seeking mamas out there are advised to speak with their doctors about the risks of using 3D/4D ultrasound technology before undergoing that type of scan. Armed with complete info about the risks, mamas are free to make the decision about whether it’s right for them.

Forty weeks is a long time to wait to meet your baby, and it’s definitely always fun to see what s/he looks like and what s/he is doing in there! But is it worth it? After all, the use of 3D technology in non-medical settings is fairly new and not very well studied. It might be fine and safe, but then again, maybe we’re doing unknown harm to millions of babies out there.

What do you think, do you think 3D ultrasounds are safe? Will you be getting a 3D look at your little one?