Pregnant woman holds a picture of a 3-D ultrasound against her stomach, her hands around it in a heart shape.

Should You Really Splurge On A 3-D Ultrasound?

It’s your first pregnancy and you can’t wait to see your baby. Will they have your husband’s cheeks? Did they inherit your eyes? Is the curse of your family’s flat feet making an appearance? 40 weeks is a long time to wait to see what your little bundle of joy looks like, but is getting a 3-D ultrasound really worth it?

Here’s what the experts say, and my own experience with getting a 3-D ultrasound.

2-D vs. 3-D Ultrasound: What’s The Difference?

While both 2-D and 3-D ultrasounds use sound waves to generate an image, there are quite a few differences.

A 2-D ultrasound creates a two-dimensional image of your developing fetus. The photo is a grainy, black and white image—the traditional picture we think of when we hear the word “ultrasound.”

A black and white 2-D Ultrasound gives a look at a baby inside the womb.
Image of a 2-D ultrasound


2-D ultrasounds are typically included with your prenatal care and are used to assess a number of things, including:

  • Your baby’s age
  • Whether you’re carrying a single child, twins, or more
  • The position of your baby, placenta, and umbilical cord
  • Amniotic fluid levels
  • Your baby’s heart rate
  • Your baby’s overall development

A 3-D ultrasound, sometimes referred to as a keepsake ultrasound, is used for entertainment purposes and isn’t (usually) medically necessary. The quality of the image is much more detailed than a 2-D image, showing your baby in a more realistic view.

Because this is an elective procedure, most insurance companies don’t cover the expense.

A 3-D ultrasound shows a clearer, more detailed image of your baby inside the womb.
Image of a 3-D ultrasound

Here’s what 3-D ultrasounds are typically used for:

  • To check your baby’s gender
  • To see detailed features of your developing fetus such as eyes and nose
  • Witness your baby yawning or moving in general (known as a 4-D ultrasound)
  • To generate a keepsake for you and your family

Are 3-D Ultrasounds Safe?

This is hotly debated. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) highly recommends that ultrasounds only be performed for medically necessary reasons; avoiding casual ultrasounds (such as 3-D) at all times throughout pregnancy. The FDA also has a similar stance, stating that ultrasounds slightly heat tissues, and should only be conducted under the care of a trained medical professional as part of your required prenatal care.

However, there’s no evidence to suggest that ultrasounds have any negative long-term effects for your developing baby. In fact, ultrasounds are much safer than x-rays as they use sound waves as opposed to the ionizing radiation used in the latter.

But, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk. Just means that the long-term effects (if any) are unknown at this time.

My suggestion is to speak with your OB/GYN about any concerns you may have, and whether or not there’s any medical reason you should not have a 3-D ultrasound performed.

How Much Do They Cost?

Keepsake ultrasounds are incredibly popular, with no shortage of places you can have one done. However, they can be on the pricey side.

Keep in mind, you’re more than likely going to have to pay out-of-pocket, as most health insurers don’t see this as a medically necessary exam during your pregnancy.

I had my 3D ultrasound performed by Miracle In Progress in Las Vegas, NV. Here are the prices for each package to give you a general idea of what you can expect to pay if you do choose to get one.

  • 14-20 weeks to check baby’s gender: $89 for a 15 min session in 3D/4D
  • 24-32 weeks (recommended time for best results): $109 for a 15 min session in 3D/4D

Most packages include several keepsake photos of your baby in 3D, with optional add-ons such as DVD or digital files.

Reasons You Should Consider A Keepsake Ultrasound

I chose to have a 3-D ultrasound at 14 weeks. I knew that it wasn’t a medical necessity and that it would also cost a pretty penny for only 15 minutes. However, I had a very pressing (albeit sad) reason for having one performed. My grandma had just become very ill and I wanted to find out the gender of my baby so I could tell her before it was too late.

While not every reason has to be as sentimental or pressing as mine, there are several good reasons you should consider getting a 3-D ultrasound, such as:

  • A clearer (more accurate) determination of your baby’s gender compared to 2-D
  • You want to share a HD photo of your baby with family and friends (makes a great baby shower invitation)
  • You have a surrogate. This allows you to see your baby in a very real way and strengthens your bond
  • You want to check for any birth defects that may be unclear on 2-D, such as a cleft palate
  • You want a keepsake for a photo album or shadow box (I did this!)

While 3-D ultrasounds can be exciting and emotional, I want to emphasize that they shouldn’t be used to determine any serious medical conditions for you or your baby. Always speak with a qualified medical professional and seek out proper prenatal care.

3-D ultrasounds should also be used sparingly. While it’s tempting to want to see your baby all the time, trust me, you’ll have plenty of time to stare at their beautiful face after they’re born!

3 Tips Ensuring You Get The Best 3-D Ultrasound Experience

While 3-D ultrasounds do render clearer images than 2-D, there are numerous ways to improve your chances of getting that perfect shot of your baby.

  1. Drink plenty of water. Your baby is floating in amniotic fluid. The more fluid there is, the clearer the ultrasound images are going to be. Drinking the recommended daily amount of water while pregnant (Ten 8oz. glasses of water) should ensure you stay fully hydrated for the ultrasound.
  2. Schedule your appointment when your baby is most active. My daughter was always wiggling around at 10am and 9pm. I chose to book my appointment around 10 so that I could have better odds of seeing her moving around, opening her eyes, kicking her feet etc. Otherwise you run the risk of having your baby turned away while sleeping.
  3. Use the restroom before you get started. The ultrasound typically lasts anywhere between 15-20 minutes. While it might not seem like a long time, the last thing you want to do is have to stop your ultrasound to go to the restroom. You risk the baby moving positions, falling asleep, or you running out of time before getting a good shot.

Are you considering getting a 3-D ultrasound? Moms who had one, did you think it was worth it? Let me know in the comments, below!

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