Many parents can’t wait until birth to see their baby. So, they opt for services like 3D ultrasounds that can offer insight into what their baby may look like.
More often than not, they end up appearing a little like an alien and malformed. But why?
Are 3D ultrasounds accurate for looks? No, 3D ultrasounds are not accurate for looks. They use sound waves from different angles to piece together multiple 2D images. These soundwaves bounce off of multiple surfaces, including organs and fluids. Thus, they do not produce a clear, quality image and can often be distorted.
Keep reading to learn more about why your baby may look different on a 3D ultrasound than at birth and beyond.
3D Ultrasounds: Baby Imaging and Distortion
3D ultrasounds are a great tool for diagnostic purposes, but when it comes to evaluating looks, they leave a lot to be desired.
How 3D Ultrasounds Work
Ultrasounds use sound waves sent by a transducer to create an image. These sound waves bounce off of the surfaces of the baby’s body and the mother’s uterus to evaluate the depth, height, and width of the images.
These images are then combined to create one 3D rendering of what the baby looks like inside the womb.
3D Ultrasound Distortion
Most of the time, ultrasound image distortions are caused by the sound waves being interrupted by the baby’s movement. However, there are several other reasons why a 3D ultrasound might be inaccurate.
- No room: Your baby is squished inside your uterus, which can make for some faces of discomfort.
- Baby is still growing: Your baby may still be developing body fat, which can make the facial structure look more boney.
- Baby is transparent: In an ultrasound, you’re seeing more than just the baby’s body from the surface. You’re also seeing their organs and bones.
- Baby is turned: The sonographer may not be able to get full frontal pictures of the baby’s face. Sometimes they are turned in such a way that only a partial profile is able to be seen. This often looks odd due to the shadowing in 3D ultrasounds.
- Large soft spot: Your baby’s soft spot is present and more pronounced in pregnancy. In an ultrasound, it appears as a large black spot that sometimes travels down the nose.
- Baby’s face is covered: Your baby is cramped in your uterus, so their arms and legs may block your view of the face. However, because of the way the sound waves bounce, limbs can be difficult to identify depending on the angle and movement.
Common Distorted Features With 3D Ultrasound
There is consistency in what features are skewed and how badly they are distorted. In most cases, a baby’s nose, lips, or facial shape will not be accurately depicted.
This is typically due to how the baby is positioned in the uterus, how much they’re moving, and the amount of amniotic fluid surrounding them.
Is It Normal for Baby Nose To Look Big on 3D Ultrasound?
Yes, it’s normal for a baby’s nose to look big on a 3D ultrasound due to faulty sound waves, bad angles, or the baby just being squished.
In rare cases, a large or flattened nose can indicate genetic abnormalities. If you’re concerned about your ultrasound pictures, it’s best to consult with your sonographer and doctor.
Nose on 3D Ultrasound vs. Baby Nose at Birth
While your baby’s nose could look large, flattened, or malformed in an ultrasound, this may not be the case at birth.
Ultrasound pictures of big noses are typically the result of environmental factors and are not accurate representations of what the baby’s nose will look like outside of the womb.
By the time your baby is born, their nose is likely to be fully developed and properly formed. If your child is born with a nose deformity, corrective treatments may be necessary so that your child can breathe in the early months of their life.
Are 3D Ultrasounds Safe?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) recommend the use of ultrasounds strictly for medicinal purposes by trained professionals.
This is due to inconsistent levels of training among employees at “keepsake ultrasound” facilities.
An improperly trained sonographer could cause unnecessary concern to expecting parents if they think they see something abnormal, or they may miss an abnormality entirely.
Ultrasounds are a part of routine prenatal care, and unofficial ultrasounds should not replace recommended sonogram visits with a qualified professional.
Difference Between 3D and 4D Ultrasound
3D ultrasounds produce still images developed from sound waves while 4D ultrasounds occur in real time using the same method.
Essentially, the main difference between the two is that a 3D ultrasound produces a picture whereas 4D ultrasounds produce a video.
Newborn Baby After Birth
Many people develop expectations around birth and delivery from what they’ve seen on television.
However, this process is usually cleaned up and beautified in film to make it more digestible for the audience. In reality, birth is messy and unpredictable.
When a baby is born, they do not come out spotless, glowing, and chunky.
Rather, their heads will be misshapen, and features may be swollen and sometimes bruised from the pressure of the birth canal. In addition, they will be covered in a white cheesy-looking protective layer, called vernix, and blood.
Beyond that, the baby may appear to have a short layer of fuzz all over their body called lanugo.
Lanugo is a type of body hair that helps the baby regulate temperature in the womb. The earlier a baby is born, the more body hair they’re likely to have.
When Do Babies’ Looks Change?
Babies go through a lot of changes and growth in the first few months of life. By three months, it’s like looking at a new baby.
As the shock of birth subsides, swelling and bruising will fade. The vernix will be bathed away, and the baby’s head will return to normal shape within days or weeks from birth.
Baby’s hair and eyes will begin to change, if they’re meant to, by three months of age as well. They will grow fuller and less wrinkly and spend less time curled up. Now they’ll be looking more like a baby and less like an alien.
When Do Babies’ Noses Change?
Pressure from the womb and birth can cause a baby’s nose to appear flat or wide. This is because the bridge of the baby’s nose is not present at the time of birth.
The baby’s nasal passage isn’t fully developed until a few weeks or months after birth.
This isn’t the end of its growth though, and in fact, your child’s nose will change until the time they hit puberty.
How To Improve Baby Nose Shape
It’s normal for parents to be concerned about their child’s appearance, but there are risks associated with tampering with a child’s physical development.
Simply put, there is no safe way to improve your baby’s nose shape.
Some parents try nose pinching, and others buy nose shapers online, but doing so can cause unintended harm. The cartilage or septum of the nose can be damaged by such pressure.
How Many 3D Ultrasounds Can You Get?
The quantity of 3D ultrasounds that can be scheduled is dependent on where you go to get them.
In a hospital setting, 3D ultrasounds are typically only used in cases where a medically necessary ultrasound is already taking place.
In commercial clinics, the limit is different. Current guidelines from several authorities state that ultrasounds should be avoided unless medically necessary.
When Can A 3D Ultrasound Detect Gender?
Given the right conditions, a 3D ultrasound can detect gender around 14-16 weeks. However, this type of appointment is only available at independent clinics.
Hospitals will typically do an anatomy scan between 18 and 22 weeks at which point they can reveal the gender or will offer additional methods of testing.
3D ultrasounds are great for diagnostic purposes and even offer some insight into a baby’s appearance.
However, a baby changes many times from conception to birth and many more times in the weeks, months, and years following.
Charley is a mother of three with a passion for raising good humans. With her children in tow, she studies English and has made a career creating content about motherhood. In her free time, she enjoys traveling within the states to kayak, camp, and hike.