Cast your mind back, not that long ago, when 3D ultrasounds first became a thing. It was so sci-fi, so out of this world. Then came 3D printing – the ability to create a model of a baby while still in the womb. This technology is now being explored further, by doctors searching for abnormalities in babies, before they’re born.
If you’re not familiar with 3D printing, let us refresh your minds. A couple of years ago we wrote an article about a Japanese company creating 3D printed models of their foetuses (pictured above). The latest research has revealed that doctors are now using 3D printing to help find things like cleft lips or other facial deformities before babies are born.
According to obstetrician/gynaecologist Chandra Adams, it’s a technique being used by an increasing number of doctors.
“The ability to make more prenatal evaluations is a growing trend in obstetrics, pushing many facilities to offer more and more tests. To that end, 3D/4D sono creates the ability to assess soft tissue structures, whereas traditional 2D ultrasound could only evaluate bony structures. As a result, many pregnancies today will see some form of 3D/4D ultrasonography, whether for diagnostic or recreational purposes,”
There are a couple of negatives when it comes to using the technology – first the price, then the risks that come with using these types of tests.
“An often downplayed risk is the number of false-positive, false-negative, or non-diagnostic studies,” outlines Dr Adams. “Several factors such as maternal obesity, fetal positioning, or fetal movement, can confound the results. For expecting parents, the added anxiety of suspecting something is wrong with their baby can add unnecessary stress during what should otherwise be a happy time. By the same token, a scan that appears normal may lend a false sense of security and find many parents blindsided at delivery.”