4D Scans of the womb

4D Scans of the womb

Professor Stuart Campbell of London’s Create Health Clinic is a pioneer in ultrasound diagnosis in medicine and has introduced many techniques including 3D scanning and establishing the world’s first 4D Ultrasound Clinic.

This new type of ultrasound scan produces vivid pictures of a 12 week old foetus ‘walking’ in the womb.

The scans are much more detailed than conventional ultrasound that produces 2D images of the developing foetus.

In addition, activities of the baby inside the womb can be seen which are difficult or impossible to identify on 2D scanning. With 4D scanning, the foetus can now be seen to yawn, cry, swallow, blink and perform intricate finger movements.

Examination times are also reduced because the baby’s anatomy can be studied in any plane from the stored computer image.

Speaking to BBC News, Professor Campbell says his work has been able to show for the first time that the unborn baby engages in complex behaviour from an early stage of its development.

He told the BBC: “This is a new science for understanding and mapping out the behaviour of the baby. Maybe in the future it will help us understand and diagnose genetic disease, maybe even conditions like cerebral palsy which puzzles the medical profession as to why it occurs.”

The images have shown:

  • From 12 weeks, unborn babies can stretch, kick and leap around the womb – well before the mother can feel movement
  • From 18 weeks, they can open their eyes although most doctors thought eyelids were fused until 26 weeks
  • From 26 weeks, they appear to exhibit a whole range of typical baby behaviour and moods, including scratching, smiling, crying, hiccuping and sucking

Until recently it was thought that smiling did not start until six weeks after birth.