4D scan

As a future mum, you may want to consider having a 4D scan at some point of your pregnancy.

If you are eager to find out how your baby looks with plenty of detail, 4D scans are definitely a good option. These kinds of pregnancy scans are a real revolution, but are they really necessary?

Whether you already know about 4D scans or, on the contrary, this is the first time you are hearing about them, here you'll find all the information you need to get a better idea of what they consist of.

I'm sorry, did you say 4D scan? What is it?

People are familiar with the 2D and 3D concepts, but it is not that common to read about 4D. When it comes to ultrasounds, the 2D scans have been and still are the most popular ones. They provide you with flat 2D images of the baby in the womb and they can mostly detect any anomalies in the foetus. A 4D scan also uses ultrasound technology, but it takes several 2D images that end up generating a 3D one. But that's not everything. The most remarkable thing about the 4D scan is that they can capture the baby's movement in real-time. That usually allows you to see the little one's features with clarity and, also, how he's behaving inside your uterus; for instance, if he's sucking his thumb, kicking and so on.

Do I need to have a 4D scan? 

The truth is that the regular ultrasounds that you'll have throughout your pregnancy will already provide you with all the information needed in a regular gestation. Don't forget that you'll be offered scans between the 11 weeks pregnant and 13 weeks pregnant, mostly to check on your due date, and an anomaly scan that will take place at 20 weeks pregnant. Also, you'll have the option to get a third ultrasound between 28 weeks pregnant and 40 weeks pregnant that will focus on the baby's growth, and that is generally meant for women who have dealt with complications in previous pregnancies. The 4D scan is not necessary, but many parents choose to do it because they want to see their baby's features.

That being said, there are specific cases when this kind of ultrasound is recommended by doctors. Above all, if: 

  • You are dealing with severe pain and want to make sure that the foetus's development is normal
  • You are suffering from bleeding, mostly known as spotting
  • The due date isn't completely clear and you are looking for more precise information
  • You went through a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy in the past

When should you have it?

You can have a 4D scan at any stage of your pregnancy, but the ideal time is somewhere between 24 weeks pregnant and 32 weeks pregnant. Why? Well, the answer is pretty simple. If you decide to have it sooner than that, the foetus won't be completely developed, so you won't get an accurate picture of your little one. In contrast, if you wait too long, past week 32, he may have started moving down to your pelvis, so it may be a lot harder to perceive his face and features.

What can you expect from a 4D scan? 

As mentioned before, what you'll usually get with a 4D scan is a more precise and moving image of your baby-to-be. During pregnancy, women have an average of two ultrasounds, one of which can be the 4D. The test can last for more than 30 minutes and, if everything goes well and you have it at the indicated stage, you should be able to see your baby's face and features, such as the eyes, nose and mouth. This new technological test will also let you watch how he performs different actions, like yawning, smiling or stretching his body. If your baby is too 'shy' to show his face, the sonographer may ask you to go out and take a walk. That may stimulate the baby to shift his position.

What are its advantages... and disadvantages?

Before you make a decision about trying to get a 4D baby scan, you need to focus on its purpose. If you need extra help, take into consideration the following pros and cons.

Pros:

  • You'll have a detailed and high-quality image of your future baby way before he's born
  • What's more, you will be able to see him moving, which can be more satisfying than a simple 2D image
  • It can provide you with a better idea of the foetus's development, adding extra accuracy to the due date
  • You may get more information about your little one, including his gender, growth and the development of his organs. It can also assure that the placenta is in perfect condition
  • It doesn't pose any risks and it's painless

Cons:

  • These kinds of tests tend to be pricey, which could dissuade you from choosing them. The cost of a 4D scan in the UK ranges from 90 to 200 pounds, so you need to consider whether it is worth it or not
  • It may take a few tries before you can get clear pictures of your munchkin

To sum up, having a 4D scan is a personal decision. It's an opportunity to see your baby in advance, but other than that, it doesn't offer that many extra benefits. A 2D scan can perfectly tell you whether the foetus is growing healthily, so after all, it's a matter of wanting to spend the money on a more sophisticated test. Experts don't recommend 4D scans unless there's a medical issue involved. Now it's up to you to decide whether it's worth choosing it.