What are Fetal Pictures?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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Fetal pictures are images of developing fetuses taken while the baby is still in the womb. These pictures are generally taken through the use of sonogram, or ultrasound, technology. Fetal pictures are used as a tool to check on fetal development, as well as for parents to see the first images of their unborn baby.

Ultrasound technology, which allows for fetal pictures, is a unique form of medical scanning. Instead of using electromagnetic radiation to capture an image, like an X-ray, sonograms use sound waves to do much the same job. An instrument called a transducer is placed over the stomach, where it emits sound at different frequencies. The organs and the fetus produce echoes when the sound waves hit, which are detected by the transducer and used as data to create fetal pictures.

Fetal pictures done through ultrasound are generally considered to be safe for pregnant women, since the process emits no radiation. Some medical experts caution, however, that pictures should be taken only for medically sound reasons and not for keepsakes or other purposes. Sound waves do contain energy that can be harmful to babies in some cases, and some research suggests a link between frequent ultrasounds and developmental disabilities. Taking additional pictures for non-medical reasons may be illegal in some regions, and elective sonograms are usually not covered by insurance plans.


For medical purposes, sonograms may be taken every few months during a pregnancy, or at least once in each trimester. Babies that show signs of physical developmental issues may be monitored more often, to help keep doctors informed about the progression of the condition. In the first trimester, a fetal picture can help reveal how far the pregnancy has progressed, if there are multiple fetuses, and identify some potential developmental issues, such as Down's Syndrome. During the second trimester, pictures may be taken to monitor the growth and position of both the fetus and the mother's organs. Third trimester ultrasounds can help give doctors an idea of late development and whether the baby is positioning itself correctly for birth.

Most diagnostic fetal pictures are done using a two-dimensional image projection, but three-dimensional scanning is also possible. This is done through altering the angle of the sound waves to produce a picture that includes depth. Three-dimensional fetal pictures can help produce clearer images of the entire fetus, which may be useful in identifying any developing problems. It may also be easier to identify the sex of the fetus through this technique.


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Post 3

@umbra21 - That's got more to do with genetic manipulation than testing to ensure a fetus is healthy. Most of what they can see in fetus pictures is going to be big defects that will probably prevent the fetus from making it to birth anyway.

In some cases they've discovered problems and surgically corrected them in the womb as well. I would definitely encourage people to get pictures done of fetal development to make sure everything is OK. Don't avoid it because you're afraid of what you might find.

Post 2

@pastanaga - I agree that it can be a moving experience, but at the same time it can be quite controversial as well. My cousin was so stressed out on the day they were going to take the first pictures of her pregnancy it wasn't fun at all. I went with her for moral support and basically she had convinced herself that there was going to be "something wrong" with the fetus and couldn't decide what to do if that was the case.

Luckily she had a perfectly healthy baby, but I often wonder what the ethics should be surrounding this kind of thing. I'm not opposed to abortion in general if the child isn't wanted, but I also don't think parents should get to pick and choose traits for their children and I think it could be dangerous to start drawing the line.

Post 1

I was overseas when my sister sent me the first fetal pictures of my nephew over the computer. I never thought it would effect me so much but I actually started to tear up when I saw the pictures of him, even though it was barely recognizable that they were pictures of a human creature.

I think I still have them somewhere even though it's been quite a few years later and he's much bigger now! It's just such an incredible thing that we can peek inside the process of creating a human.

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