The Difference Between 2D, 3D, and 4D Ultrasounds

Dr. Chad Hill

For more than 20 years, Dr. Chad Hill has served as owner and OB/GYN physician of Siloam Springs Women’s Center in Arkansas. In this capacity, Dr. Chad Hill provides women with a large range of services, including 3D and 4D ultrasounds.

Most people are familiar with 2D ultrasounds, the traditional technology that lets expectant parents see their baby as a black-and-white image and view its morphology and anatomy. While this type of ultrasound is important and still commonly used, many parents prefer 3D and 4D ultrasounds when viewing their growing child.

A 3D ultrasound, as evidenced by its name, shows a fetus in three dimensions. The technology used for this type of ultrasound relies on high-frequency sound waves and is just as safe to use as a 2D ultrasound. However, these sound waves are used at varying angles, allowing them to reflect off one another. As the waves reflect, the ultrasound machine interprets them to create a 3D image of a baby. The final image will not move, but the appearance of the baby in the ultrasound will look more realistic and life-like.

Meanwhile, a 4D scan shows the baby moving instead of just creating a still three-dimensional image. With a 4D scan, physicians are able to view the baby at different angles and determine whether there are any abnormalities in the fetus’ growth.

Although there is a benefit to getting a 3D and 4D ultrasound done, experts still don’t recommend either technology for getting a souvenir ultrasound. Completing a 3D or 4D scan exposes the fetus to more ultrasound than usual, and it is not clear what effects this may have.