published Thursday, January 21st, 2010

3d babies

Technology makes pre-birth imaging more popular.

Audio clip

Dr. Kathleen Mitchell

  • photo
    Contributed photo This ultrasound image clearly shows the facial features of a fetus.

Rebecca Parker knew her sisters wouldn't be around for the birth of her first child.

"One of them (lives in) Israel, the other one is in Los Angeles, and they weren't going to be here when the baby was born," Mrs. Parker said. "So we wanted to have something they could be a part of since they weren't going to be around for the birth."

To give her siblings a preview of their still prenatal niece (Lilah is due on Feb. 22), Mrs. Parker had a 3-dimensional ultrasound performed.

Unlike the 2D ultrasound, which is generally used as a diagnostic tool, 3D ultrasounds provide a more lifelike image of a fetus.

Parents-to-be can see facial features and gestures. With the exception of high risk pregnancy, 3D ultrasound is done for the purpose of creating a "keepsake," according to Dr. Kathleen Mitchell, an obstetrician at Beacon Health Alliance in Chattanooga.

"(Two dimensional ultrasound is) the standard that's used for medical diagnostic ultrasound in obstetrics," Dr. Mitchell said.

Referred to as diagnostic ultrasound, 2D ultrasound is used to look at the position of the placenta, check for any anomalies, look at the organs and determine the baby's sex. Unlike 3D ultrasound, it is generally covered by insurance as part of a standard prenatal screening.

Because 3D ultrasound is not a standard part of typical prenatal care, not all obstetric offices offer it.

When Renee Caylor was pregnant with her children, now ages 2 and 5, she said she had to travel to Atlanta to have a 3D ultrasound. Wanting to make the option more available to women in the Chattanooga area, Ms. Caylor opened a franchise business, Cloud Nine Imaging, through United Imaging Partners. Ms. Caylor said packages range from $99 to $229. (At North Park OBGYN in Hixson a 3D ultrasound costs $200.)

"We are not here to replace prenatal care," said Ms. Caylor, who has a background in business administration. When she decided to open Cloud Nine, she was trained to perform fetal ultrasounds through UIP, studying sonography, grayscale and ultrasound principles, female reproduction and fetal anatomy. A mother-to-be, she said, must be under the care of an obstetrician to get an appointment at Cloud Nine.

How it works

Ultrasound is performed using low frequency sound waves, which create heat. "There possibly could be some effect on the fetus," Dr. Mitchell said, "though to date there's been none reported."

3D ultrasound, she said, uses more waves. "Theoretically, if (a sonographer) doesn't know what it appropriate, they may use a higher level of ultrasound than approved by the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)."

Ashley Teasley, of Dalton, Ga., had a 3D ultrasound of her twins, Owen and Ellie, at Cloud Nine after having a standard ultrasound at her OBGYN's.

"It was really neat getting to see their faces," she said. Ms. Teasley has two other children, ages 6 and 8. She did not have a 3D ultrasound with them.

For Mrs. Parker, having a 3D ultrasound made impending motherhood a little more real.

"It was a neat way of getting a sneak peak," she said. "As a first time parent, I think it's really ambiguous anyway, so anything you can do to make (the prospect of parenthood) more real will help."

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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