How Safe is 4D Ultrasound?

N. Madison

Most medical experts agree that 4D ultrasounds are safe for use during pregnancy. These ultrasounds allow parents and medical staff members to capture images of a developing baby in 3D and witness movements at the same time, which is why it's called 4D. Parents and medical personnel can view the baby and its movements in real time on a computer monitor. Some people have expressed concern over the fact that the sound waves used in a 4D ultrasound can raise tissue temperatures. Many medical experts assert, however, that the potential temperature change is not significant enough to cause harm.

4D ultrasounds are a type of 3D ultrasound that also show movement.
4D ultrasounds are a type of 3D ultrasound that also show movement.

Much of the concern some people have about 4D ultrasound safety may stem from the fact that they view it as new technology. The fact is, however, that 4D ultrasounds employ the technology used in ordinary 2D ultrasounds that have been around for years. Pregnant women often have such ultrasounds on a routine basis, without harm to their unborn children. A 4D ultrasound works the same way 2D ultrasounds do. The difference is that the 4D ultrasounds utilize more technologically advanced scanners that make it possible to see more of a woman’s uterus and her developing baby.

4D ultrasounds do not cause harm to a fetus.
4D ultrasounds do not cause harm to a fetus.

A person may worry more about the safety of a 4D ultrasound if she equates it with x-rays and similar diagnostic tests. Unlike x-rays, however, 4D ultrasounds do not involve the use of radiation. This means there is no risk of radiation-related cancer or tissue damage from 4D ultrasound.

A 4D ultrasound is capable of capturing images and movements of a developing baby.
A 4D ultrasound is capable of capturing images and movements of a developing baby.

Some people cite the rise in temperature that sound waves can cause as they pass through tissues as a reason to be concerned about the use of 4D ultrasound. Most medical experts, however, assert that the risk is too small to warrant worry or avoidance of ultrasounds. Additionally, ultrasound technicians typically monitor temperature changes during ultrasounds, so any worrisome changes can be detected and the ultrasound can then be terminated.

If an ultrasound procedure caused a dramatic rise in the temperature of fetal tissues, it is possible that this could harm a developing baby. It is extremely unlikely, however, that temperatures could ever rise this high during a regular 4D ultrasound. As such, most medical experts view it as safe. If a woman has concerns about its safety, however, she may find her doctor a good source of information about the procedure. Additionally, many in the medical field recommend limiting ultrasounds to those that are necessary rather than using them as elective procedures.

The 4D ultrasound uses much of the same technology as traditional ultrasounds.
The 4D ultrasound uses much of the same technology as traditional ultrasounds.

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Discussion Comments


Ultrasounds have been a way to find out if there's something wrong, even when nothing was otherwise indicated. Stop being worry warts. I've had lots of ultrasounds with all my babies including a 4D and they are all just fine! Have your ultrasounds, ladies!


How many people were looked at inside their mothers womb in a routine ultrasound and turned out absolutely 100 percent fine? Countless. There isn't evidence of it causing any problems or being unsafe. I don't understand the big deal here.


@ElizaBennett - I get what you're saying, but don't forget the value of peace of mind. Ultrasound is certainly the safest, least invasive prenatal test. My wife and I had some weird results from blood tests early on and were offered amniocentesis, but we chose instead fo wait until 20 weeks and have a Level 2 ultrasound instead. We were able to get reassurance that our baby's heart, lungs, spine, etc. were all looking good. And most of our friends have had this "anatomy scan" as well. The scan was done mostly in 2D but we were also able to view 4D images of the baby and get some nice detailed pictures to take home.

That said, I would never go to one of those 4D ultrasound locations where you just get pictures of the baby and to find out the sex. I do agree with you that it's important to remember that ultrasound is a medical test and should be used judiciously, not just for entertainment.


I think it's important for people to realize that ACOG, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, does *not* recommend *any* routine use of ultrasound. They suggest that it be used only when there's a medical indication, such as when the mother has experienced unusual bleeding.

I know, we all expected to get those ultrasound pictures, and probably most doctors have gotten in the habit of doing a couple of them routinely. But even though they have been around a long time, they are not considered to be proven safe. Nor is routine ultrasonography shown to improve outcomes for mothers and babies. (That is, there is no evidence that healthy mothers with no medical indication for ultrasound will be better off for having ultrasounds.)

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