With 72% of people paying for private scans, it is clear that expectant mothers and fathers all want the chance to see and hear their growing foetuses in the highest definition possible. 4D scans offer the chance to do just this. This is because they produce a more detailed and realistic view of the fetes, allowing parents to see their baby’s movements, expressions and even facial features. However, the costs, benefits and controversies of 4D scans may be raising doubts in your mind. Let us squash these doubts, whilst also answering the most crucial question – when can you have a 4D scan?
What is a 4D scan?
If, like many other expectant parents, you’re itching to see a 3D moving image of your baby – then a 4D scan is for you! A 4D scan differs from the standard 2D black-and-white scans. This is because they provide you with a more accurate and comprehensive depiction of your baby’s movements and facial expressions.
So, how do they work? Simply put, the scanning probe directs high-frequency sound waves toward the baby. A computer creates the image of the foetus by using the sound waves that hit the baby and then bounce back like an echo. The 4D and 3D scans both emit waves from a variety of angles to create a three-dimensional image. However, the benefit of the 4D scan is that it gives you a real-time moving image.
The History of 4D Scans
3D scanning was first developed in the 1990s. It served as the foundation for the creation of 4D ultrasound scanning technology. Initially, 3D technology was used for identifying abnormalities. With the advent of 4D scan technology in the 1990s, came the opportunity for expectant parents to see their unborn child’s movements and facial expressions. This made the baby scan process more emotive, helping to foster a better connection between parent and child.
The Benefits of a 4D Scan
4D scans have a number of benefits for the expectant parents and the foetus. These include:
- Offering a more accurate and detailed look at the foetus when compared to conventional 2D ultrasounds. They enable real-time viewing of the foetus’s facial characteristics, movements, and expressions.
- This accurate and detailed look at the foetus helps medical professionals to detect some abnormalities and developmental issues. These abnormalities, which include cleft lips and palates and spinal deformities, may not be immediately visible in a 2D scan.
- 4D scans improve the welfare and well-being of the mother. Pregnant women who are able to observe their developing child more closely report feeling more attached to them. They also reported feeling less stressed and anxious. A 2005 study confirmed that ‘there were more women with positive quality, intensity and global attachment among those who had undergone a 4D scan’.
- 4D scans have benefits for dads too! Some expectant fathers can find it difficult to bond with the baby and feel removed from the process of pregnancy. 4D scans enable fathers to bond with their unborn children by allowing them to see their developing baby in high definition.
- When given the opportunity to have a 4D scan, many pregnant parents say they feel happier with their prenatal care. This is because it offers a more individualised and participatory experience.
- A final, and somewhat overlooked benefit, of 4D scans, is the opportunity they give you to show the rest of your family what your unborn baby looks like. This will help your parents and brothers and sisters to feel more connected with your baby before they are born.
Getting Prepared for Your 4D Scan
The Cost of a 4D Scan
Usually, to get a 4D scan you must go privately as they are not routinely offered on the NHS. This is because they are considered to be ‘non-essential’ to the health of you and your baby. The price of a 4D scan will vary based on the clinic, and the various added extras, included in the fee price. Some added extras can include a scan video, a photo magnet and a key ring.
If you are on a tight budget, many clinics offer basic 4D scan packages that start at just £79. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more comprehensive, you could be looking at a cost of £169. It’s crucial that you take into account the level of service, the sonographer’s qualifications and the clinic’s reputation when choosing where to have your 4D scan. Before making your decision, do some research and evaluate the costs and packages offered by a number of different clinics in your local area!
What to wear to your 4D Scan
It’s crucial to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your 4D scan. This gives the sonographer easy access to your stomach. Avoid wearing anything that will restrict your stomach or that is too tight. This could affect how accurately the scan reads. For this reason, loose-fitting or cropped t-shirts are a good option. You should also consider the temperature of the room in which the scan will take place. So you stay warm and comfortable throughout the scan, it is a good idea to carry a jacket or jumper.
What to expect during the Scan
A 4D scan typically lasts for between 30 and 60 minutes. Upon arrival at your 4D scan, you can expect to begin by lying on an exam table as a sonographer performs the ultrasound. A gel will be applied to your tummy by the sonographer to aid in the transmission of sound waves and enhance the clarity of the photographs. They will then take real-time pictures of the foetus using a portable transducer. The detail that 4D scans offer can be quite astounding. They can help you build up a picture in your mind of what your baby will look like – how exciting!
To get various perspectives and angles of your baby, the sonographer will frequently move the transducer around on your tummy. They may also ask you to move position to get a better view of some angles. If despite moving you around, the sonographer cannot get a good image, they may suggest you take a short walk or sip on a cold sugary drink. These are both great ways to shift your baby’s position inside the womb and enable the sonographer to capture high-quality 3D images.
The sonographer will be on the lookout for signs of the health of your baby and its growth throughout the scan. These could include heart rate, movement and breathing. They will also be looking for any indications of anomalies or problems that might call for additional testing or medical attention.
Finding Out Your Baby’s Gender
If you haven’t already, you can also find out the gender of your baby at your 4D scan. This heightens the excitement of the scan. You will get to see your little girl or boy in high definition, and also know their gender! Some clinics even offer the option to have a gender reveal confetti shooter included in your package.
What is crucial?
There are some crucial, and some less crucial things that we advise you to bring along with you to your 4D scan. The first, and most obvious is some kind of confirmation of your appointment. Without this, the clinic may be unable to honour your booking. The second crucial thing that you need is money. Usually, the 4D printed scan of your baby and any photo frames will not be included in the initial scan fee. This means that if you want to buy either of these, you will need cash or a credit card. The final critical thing you should do is wear loose fitting clothing as this allows the sonographer easy access to your stomach.
What is not so crucial?
Let’s now discuss the less crucial things that we advise you to bring to your 4D scan. The first is tissues. A 4D scan can be an emotional experience, so having tissues or handkerchiefs on hand is useful! Another thing that some health professionals advise is coming to your appointment with a full bladder. In some cases, this can improve the image’s quality. However, there is now consensus that is not really necessary.
The final thing we advise you to bring to your scan is a specialised photo frame. Most clinics that offer a 4D scanning service will also offer you the option to get your 4D scan framed. However, this can be expensive and is often not worth the extra expenditure. Instead, we suggest that you invest in a photo frame from Amazon prior to your scan so that you’re ready to place it in the frame as soon as you have it in your hands!
The Best Photo Frames for 4D Scans
- The Pearhead Triple Sonogram Pregnancy Keepsake Frame is one of the best-rated on Amazon. This is a wide wooden frame with each trimester stamped on it in grey writing. Three ultrasound scans, including your 4D scan, can fit in this one frame!
- Another great frame is by EurSet. This frame has space for one sonogram picture, and has ‘love at first heartbeat’, with two small hearts emblazoned on it. This is a little cheaper than Pearheads Offering.
- If you’re looking for something a little bit different check out this Pregnant Mama Bump Frame by Free-Space. It is shaped like a pregnant woman, and you can place your 4D scan image in the woman’s stomach. It is made of natural basswood, which gives it a rustic feel.
- The Dust and Things Baby’s First Scan Engraved Frame is a beautiful choice. It is made of natural wood, with an oak veneer and features a lovely quote – ‘from little seeds, grow mighty trees’.
- Signatureframes.co.uk do a twin-mount frame. This means you can include your scan picture and a picture of your baby after they are born, enabling you to compare the two. This frame is on the cheaper side, making it perfect for those on a budget!
- If you want to gift one of your 4D scan images to your parents, this Widdop frame is ideal. It is cream, emblazoned with moons and stars and a small teddy bear. It features the very sweet quote ‘the best parents get promoted to grandparents’.
- Last, but most certainly not least is this personalisable frame from UKGiftStoreOnline. This is a beautiful wooden frame which you are able to have engraved with your baby’s name to get a more personalised touch.
When can you have a 4D scan?
Now that you are fully equipped, let’s discuss the best time to have your scan. Medical professionals usually advise that you have a 4D scan between 27 and 32 weeks. This is because at this point the baby’s features are well-formed and there is still enough amniotic fluid to obtain clear images.
If you have the scan any earlier than 26 weeks, your baby won’t have grown enough fat to clearly see their features and any later than 32 weeks your baby may have moved position in preparation for the big day. This can make it more difficult to see their face and features. First Encounters, the baby scan specialists, argue that the absolute optimum time to have your 4D scan is week 27. However, every pregnancy is unique, and some babies develop slower than average, which is why most clinics offer scans up to 32 weeks.
Understanding Your 4D Scan Results
Hopefully, if all goes well with your scan, you will have a high-quality image of your unborn baby. Here are some common things that you might see on the 4D scan:
- With the use of a 4D scan, you can see your baby move, yawn and suck their thumb in real-time. ‘The Role of 4D Ultrasound in the Assessment of Fetal Behaviour’ by Maedica revealed that you might even be able to see your baby smiling! This can be a beautiful experience for expectant parents.
- During this stage of pregnancy, your baby’s facial features are frequently fully developed. This means you may be able to see their eyes, nose, and mouth on the scan. This enables you to begin creating an image of what your baby might look like!
- If you pick a more comprehensive scan package, you will be given the option to get an estimated weight of your baby. There is also the option to get their head and abdominal circumference measured. It is advisable to invest in these packages because this information can help your healthcare provider to monitor your baby’s growth and development.
The Controversies of 4D Scans
You’re probably thinking – 4D scans sound fantastic! Seeing your baby in high definition moving on a screen, while also having the chance to better identify any issues early on seems like a no-brainer! However, like with everything pregnancy related, you should proceed with some caution. At points, 4D scans have been shrouded with controversy. Let’s discuss these ‘controversies’, and whether they have proven to be true:
- The potential risks associated with repeated or prolonged exposure to ultrasound waves are still debated. However, if you have any worries of this nature – let us reassure you! It is now recognised that 4D ultrasound scans are equally as risk-free for you and your unborn child as 2D scans. You just need to be conscious that you are not at risk of overexposure to soundwaves, so you should keep the number of 4D scans you have to a minimum.
- Some of the controversy regarding 4D scans is related to ableism. There are some claims it places pressure on parents to have a ‘perfect’ baby. However, this is heavily disputed with most people just being happy that their baby is healthy, regardless of how they look!
- In some instances, 4D scans have misreported congenital defects. However, this is the case for all types of ultrasound reporting with one 2014 study finding that 8.8% of all congenital defects picked up by ultrasound were ‘wholly incorrect’. These mistakes can be put down to human error, which does (occasionally) happen!
Despite there being some controversy associated with 4D scans, they are a safe and effective way to get a comprehensive picture of your baby! If done in collaboration with a medical professional they can also be a great way to identify any abnormalities or issues with your baby early on. This helps you plan your birth, and your baby’s healthcare in much more depth and detail – improving your health and theirs!
We hope that this article has served as a comprehensive guide to 4D scans. It has covered their benefits, the do’s and don’ts, the scan itself and its results and the associated controversies. We also answered the crucial question – when can you have a 4D scan? You should now feel fully informed, and ready for a scan that will truly change your life!
Have you had a 4D Baby Scan? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments!