3D Ultrasound During Pregnancy: When It Is Done & How Safe It Is

A 3D ultrasound could be used to visualize a fetus and detect abnormalities.

Written by Shreeja pillai • 

Your doctor may suggest a 3D ultrasound during pregnancy for a better look at the growing fetus. However, you may be concerned about undergoing any medical procedures and their possible risks for the fetus.

Since a 3D ultrasound, similar to the regular ultrasound, uses a device that comes in contact with your abdominal area, you may be skeptical about its safety. Continue reading this post, where we discuss whether a 3D ultrasound is safe for pregnant women, what it does, why it may be suggested instead of a regular ultrasound procedure, and some points to keep in mind while undergoing the procedure.

What Does A 3D Ultrasound Test Do? Is It Safe?

The 3D ultrasound procedure, or sonography, abdominal ultrasound or abdominal sonography is not a compulsory test that you need to undergo during pregnancy. Doctors recommend it give the parents-to-be a chance to see their unborn baby better. Many doctors consider it a safe option, especially as it is a non-invasive procedure.

In some cases, your doctor may proactively refer a 3D ultrasound if there is any particular concern related to the unborn baby’s well-being or your pregnancy that needs further inspection. Your doctor may especially ask you to go for a 3D ultrasound to rule out the chances of a cleft palate, something that will immediately show up on a 3D ultrasound but not in a regular one.

A 3D ultrasound works like a regular ultrasound but produces results that are three dimensional. It uses sound waves to help create the image of your baby inside your womb. When you go for a 3D ultrasound, it allows you to see your unborn baby’s face clearer than in a regular ultrasound.

When Should You Get The 3D Ultrasound Test Done?

The best time to get the 3D ultrasound is between week 26 and week 30 of your pregnancy.

  • Before your baby is 26 weeks old in the womb, there will be little fat under his skin. As a result, the 3D ultrasound will only pick up images of the bones of the face.
  • After your baby is 30 weeks old in the womb, your baby’s head has a chance to go deeper into your pelvis. Doing a 3D ultrasound at this stage will not give you a clear image of your baby’s face.
  • In case you have a condition known as anterior placenta, in which your placenta is at the front part of your womb, you should wait till your 28thweek of pregnancy to have the best image.

While Undergoing A 3D Ultrasound During Pregnancy

Remember to keep the following things in mind when you plan to get a 3D ultrasound done while you are pregnant:

  • While a 3D ultrasound is one of the best ways to see your unborn baby’s face while still being inside the womb, you may not always get an image. It does not mean that something is wrong with your baby, that your baby is in discomfort or suffering from some condition, or that your pregnancy is not going well. It simply means that your baby is lying in such a way that the ultrasound could not pick up the image of the face.
  • One of the best instances, when you will get a clear picture of your baby’s face through a 3D ultrasound, is when your baby lies with the face pointing outwards. It is also important that there is a good amount of amniotic fluid around your baby’s face, as it will make the image clear.
  • You may not be able to see your baby’s face in the image if your baby is lying with the face towards your back.
  • Other instances where you may not be able to see your baby’s face at all is when your baby’s head is down in your pelvis. You may see a grainy picture if there isn’t enough amniotic fluid around the face.
  • You will also not be able to see your unborn baby’s face in the 3D ultrasound if you have an excess of tummy fat.
  • If the results are inconclusive and you can’t see your baby’s face, the sonographer may ask you to take a walk to help your baby move and change position. If it still does not work, your sonographer may ask you to come back after a week or so when your baby changes positions.
  • In case nothing works, and you still cannot see your unborn baby’s face, you will at least be able to see your baby’s fingers and toes.

Get The Best Image While Doing A 3D Ultrasound During Pregnancy

Here are a few tips that may help you get a better and clearer picture of your unborn baby when you go for a 3D ultrasound:

  • Follow the week guideline to get the best results out of your 3D ultrasound procedure. The best time to see your unborn baby’s face through this procedure, as explained above, is between week 26 and week 30.
  • Drink a lot of water before the 3D ultrasound procedure. Not just right before the appointment, but try having more water a few days prior to your appointment. You should try and have at least two to three liters of water on a daily basis. It will clear your amniotic sac clear and will also ensure there is enough amniotic fluid around your baby.
  • Make sure you are comfortable when you go for the 3D ultrasound. You should have your bladder full, but not so full that it makes you physically hurt and becomes difficult to walk or sit. Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between 3D and 4D ultrasound during pregnancy?

While three-dimensional (3D) ultrasounds provide a clearer static image of your baby in the womb, a four-dimensional (4D) scan provides the real-time feature. 4D allows you to see the baby in real-time or motion with greater detail and clarity than possible with the 3D surface technique (1).

2. Is 3D ultrasound better than 2D ultrasound scan during prenatal screening?

While a 3D ultrasound scan can provide a more detailed image of your unborn child, a 2D ultrasound scan is still the gold standard during pregnancy, where a 3D/4D ultrasound can be used as an additional imaging method to the 2D ultrasound as part of a target scan (2).

Ultrasounds are part of your routine pregnancy checkups to ensure your baby is healthy and growing well. 3D ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive procedure similar to general ultrasound. Your doctor may recommend a 3D ultrasound to provide a better image of your baby. However, do not worry if you cannot see your baby clearly in the first sessions as certain factors, such as the baby’s position, may affect the imaging. Although carrying out the test within the recommended weeks of gestation should give good results, you may follow some effective tips to help with the process.


  1. Eberhard Merz and Sonila Pashaj; (2013); Current Role of 3D/4D Sonography in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  2. Luís F. Gonçalves, et al.; (2006); What does two-dimensional add to three- and four-dimensional obstetrical ultrasound?
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