4D ultrasounds have become a popular way for parents-to-be to meet their baby before they are born. In a 4D ultrasound, a three-dimensional image of the baby is viewed with the fourth dimension (time) added. It is essentially a three-dimensional movie of the baby. In addition to giving a parent an important keepsake, there are also some birth complications that may be visible.
Cleft palettes and other facial deformities are very rarely noticed on 2D ultrasounds. Even 3D ultrasounds without movement may obscure the child's face enough that these issues may go unnoticed. Most physical deformities can be easily corrected following a birth, but knowing about them in advance will give a parent the ability to prepare for it -- both psychologically and financially.
Spinal defects are another issue that is often difficult to review from a still image. A 4D image will give a doctor insight into how the child is moving and whether the spine could be misaligned. Skeletal defects in general will be more visible on a 4D ultrasound. Again, though it is unlikely that anything can be done before the child is born, this will still give the parents time to plan ahead.
Fetal heart screening is an incredibly important aspect of diagnosing potential issues. However, a heart issue is often very difficult to diagnose through hearing alone. A 4D ultrasound gives the doctor a visible mechanism by which they can see the child's heart beat, in addition to recording the heartbeat through the use of audio tools. This will show the doctor whether the heart may not be beating often enough or may not be fully formed. In some situations, surgery may be required before the baby is born.
A 3D or 2D image cannot show the movement of the child, which could be slow, sluggish, or erratic. By revealing the movement of the baby, a 4D image can be used to diagnose potential anomalies that could indicate more serious problems.
Though a 4D ultrasound is quite useful as a diagnostic tool, there are some concerns when it is done purely for a keepsake. A 4D ultrasound is expensive and it is more invasive than either a 2D or a 3D ultrasound. There are some concerns that there could be potential side effects to this form of ultrasound, which is particularly aggressive. Because of this, parents should inquire with their doctor before investing in one.