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4D Ultrasound: Getting to Know Your Baby – Before it Arrives

Ultrasound technology was initially developed using an instrument created to detect potentially dangerous flaws in sea-going vessels during the manufacturing process. It was first adapted for use in the medical field in Glasgow, Scotland in 1956 by Ian Donald, and obstetrician, and Tom Brown, an engineer. It was routinely used in Scotland’s hospitals by the end of the 1950’s, in Britain by the 1970’s, and is now used all over the world.

There have been some vast improvements in the technology over the years. When it was first introduced, parents-to-be were thrilled just to be able to take home a polaroid of a 2-dimensional blurry grey outline in the shape of their baby. 3D ultrasound technology added dimension, and improved the quality of those photographs immensely. For the first time, parents were actually able to see the expressions on their babies faces. Now, they are able to view their babies with 4D technology.

In a recent article, some excited expectant parents described their 4D ultrasound experience as like being given the opportunity to be introduced to their eagerly awaited child before it was even born. Just as those of us already living in the outside world express our uniquely individual personalities through facial expressions and body language, so do babies, even before they’re born.

4D ultrasound technology has now made it possible to film real-time three-dimensional motion pictures of your baby while it’s still in the womb. Not only can parents see their baby’s’ facial expressions, but they can watch them change. They can also receive their first communications from their babies in the form of body language. Whether it’s a stretch, a yawn, a wave, or a thumbs up, these communications transcend spoken language.


The sheer amount of movement that babies are capable of, even is such a limited space, is proving to be remarkable. Equally remarkable is the extent to which unborn babies experience and respond to the outer world, including their mother’s emotions. In a 2010 study conducted by university research scientists in Japan, 10 pregnant volunteers using headphones were shown a happy clip from the famous musical The Sound of Music, then a neutral clip, then a sad clip from the movie The Champ.

The researchers counted the number of fetal movements in response to their pregnant mothers’ emotions. They found that the fetuses moved their arms much more during the happy clip than during a neutral clip, and significantly less during the sad clip. Their findings were published in The Journal of Physiological Sciences. It seems that when mothers-to-be feel like dancing, their babies enjoy dancing right along with them.

Dancing is just one form of the complex synchronicity of communication between mother and child. At Johns Hopkins University, researcher Janet Pietro and her team discovered that every time a fetus moves, it’s mother’s heartbeat grows faster, which means that her sympathetic nervous system, which plays an important role in parenting, is being stimulated by the baby’s movements. It’s long been known that a mother’s behavior affects her baby. It’s now believed that the reverse is also true. Babies’ movements may be a form of communication designed to help prepare mothers to pay attention to them even before they arrive.
Everyone knows that developing and maintaining good communication is the key to loving, and lasting, relationships. The relationship between parent and child is meant to last a lifetime. 4D ultrasound technology makes it possible for babies to communicate with their parents, and express their personalities, to a degree never before possible. One of the greatest gifts that a parent can give their child is understanding.