Pregnancy Ultrasounds: Is There Reason to Worry?

August 13, 2018

ultrasoundAlmost every pregnant mother undergoes at least a few ultrasound scans during the course of her pregnancy. Ultrasound scanning has been used for decades and is one of the easiest and most effective ways of getting a clear image of the fetus inside the womb. Expecting mothers may express concerns regarding the potential effects ultrasound exposure may have on their baby. Here are basic facts to know regarding ultrasound exposure during your pregnancy. 

How Does It Work?

Ultrasound transducers send sound waves through your body, and more specifically in this case, your womb. When these sound waves hit the fetus or other solid object, they bounce back creating echoes, which create the image of your baby on the screen. Since this type of scanning only uses medically approved frequency of sound waves, it is appropriate to use on pregnant women as the waves themselves are harmless to the baby.

These sound waves do produce a very small amount of heat.  But in fact, these scans generally would not raise the temperature by more than 1 degree Celsius. The probe would need to be held in one place for an extended period of time at least for 4-5 hours—far longer than the typical scan—to have the possibility of causing harm. Your baby is also protected from heat by the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby within the womb and the fetal movement within the womb. For these reasons, doctors consider ultrasounds safe for pregnant women and their babies.

What is the Difference Between 2D, 3D and 4D Ultrasounds?

Most mothers undergo basic 2D ultrasound scans which create a 2D image of their baby. Many clinics offer 3D and 4D scans. It is important to understand the differences between these scans and how they could affect your baby.

In essence, a 2D scan, a 3D scan, and a 4D scan use the same amount of power and the same type of sound waves. This means 2D scans, 3D scans, and 4D scans generally produce the same minimal amount of heat. The 3D images are produced by combining 2D scans. A 4D scan uses 3D technology in real time. Using 4D technology the doctor is able to view 3D scans over time, allowing for visualization of movement and function. Ultrasound technology is improving each year aiding in the ability of doctors to identify birth defects in addition to other anomalies. Both 3D and 4D scans are helpful in visualization and identification of defects, however, 2D scanning remains the gold-standard for ultrasound technology.

Take Home

Ultrasound screening is a common practice during many women’s pregnancies. Screening through ultrasound is a safe practice that allows not only the doctors, but also the parents to learn more about the baby during the pregnancy. Whether that is by visualizing birth defects or other congenital abnormalities or by learning the baby’s gender, ultrasound remains an important method for monitoring pregnancy health.