3D Ultrasound Risks

Many women are choosing to have a three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound in addition to the one that their obstetrician performs routinely. Because 3D ultrasound images show more detail of the developing baby, mothers want these so they can get photos of their child before it is born. While definitive dangers are still being studied, the Mayo Clinic says that getting an ultrasound only for these photos is not recommended 3. 3D ultrasounds pose some risks to the baby and should be performed by a trained professional at a doctor's recommendation.

Intensity and Duration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets standards that an ultrasound facility must follow regarding the amount of radiation used to obtain ultrasound pictures. Often, 3D ultrasounds are sought for entertainment purposes or to get more pictures of the baby before birth. However, the heat emitted from the ultrasound can heat the tissue of the fetus and, thus, exposure should always be limited so that the baby's health is not put at risk. The FDA has not approved the use of ultrasound for purely photographic purposes and does not recommend extra ultrasound exposure. More studies must be conducted to determine the safe use of 3D ultrasounds for getting extra baby pictures.


Most women receive a routine ultrasound that is performed for medical reasons. These include monitoring the baby's growth and looking for any potential health problems or birth defects. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that not much is known about repeated exposure to ultrasound scans; getting extra ultrasounds should only be done under doctor orders to minimize exposure to both the mother and her baby.

Keepsake Photos

In the past several years, there has been a huge increase in the number of centers that are set up solely to present an expectant mother with 3D photos of her unborn baby. ACOG says that many of the people performing these entertainment ultrasounds are not trained to interpret the results. This means that if there is a problem, it may be missed. Furthermore, these untrained technicians are not able to provide medical advice and they sometimes produce false positive results concerning possible problems, which could needlessly make a mother worry. The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) recommends expectant mothers receive an ultrasound by a licensed sonographer for medical purposes only 2.