Skip to main content

3D ultrasounds are trending: Should you get one?

3D sonograms look cool, but you want to weigh the risks and benefits

Sonograms can be a highlight of pregnancy. It’s a chance for an expecting parent or parents — and perhaps even other support people like grandparents — to catch a glimpse of the developing baby on the inside. It’s a reminder of why you’re enduring all those pregnancy symptoms.

During scans, you may note how incredible it is to see how fast the future baby is growing from a tiny little spec on a screen into a little one-to-be with a head, shoulders, knees, and toes.

Typically, these sonograms are two-dimensional. You can see some semblance of a developing human in black and white. It may feel underwhelming, especially if you log onto social media and see a friend post about a 3D sonogram. You may see the baby’s skin and more prominent facial features. Are 3D sonograms safe, and should you get one? Here’s what to know.

Woman in yellow dress holding 3D sonogram pregnancy announcement
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is a 3D sonogram?

A 3D ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to show providers, patients, and partners images of a fetus’ body, including organs and tissues. That part is no different from the standard 2D sonogram. The distinction comes in the picture quality. A 3D ultrasound is sharper. You may see more features, and the images look more like the baby you’ll soon welcome. 

Like a 2D sonogram, these scans are typically done abdominally. You can undergo one during any point of a pregnancy, though the baby generally is most ready for their close-up early in the third trimester, between 28 and 34 weeks. At that time, the fetus has developed enough that you may be able to pick up on whether your baby-to-be has high cheekbones or hair, but there’s still enough room in utero for them to move around and work their angles.

3D sonogram with hat and pink shoes in sand
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Benefits of a 3D sonogram

These sonograms, sometimes ordered for medical reasons, became popular among expectant parents during the pandemic. With OBGYN offices restricting support individuals within the office, some pregnant people booked a private 3D sonogram to allow partners or other family members to meet the developing baby. 

With restrictions likely lifted at your provider’s office, should you still opt for a 3D sonogram? In some cases, your doctor may recommend it. For example, 3D ultrasounds are better at picking up issues like cleft palates that 2D technology simply cannot. The CDC notes that diabetes, smoking, and some medications increase the risk for cleft palates. Your provider will go over your risk factors and recommend a 3D scan if they believe it is necessary. Insurance should cover it, though it’s best to call to ensure that is the case.

Otherwise, the scans can be fun for people to see their baby-to-be more clearly, and the photos can be a keepsake for a nursery.

Tech putting gel on pregnant person's stomach
Adobe Stock

Are 3D sonograms safe?

The FDA says that sonograms are generally safe but discourages keepsake scans that aren’t medically indicated, citing unknown effects of ultrasound waves on a developing baby.

“Ultrasound energy has the potential to produce biological effects on the body. Ultrasound waves can heat the tissues slightly,” stated the FDA on imaging, which was last reviewed in September 2020, and reads, “In some cases, it can also produce small pockets of gas in body fluids or tissues (cavitation). The long-term consequences of these effects are still unknown.”

Insurance does not cover keepsake ultrasounds.

A woman undergoing an ultrasound

The bottom line on 3D sonograms

Sometimes, 3D sonograms may be medically indicated, such as to check for a cleft palate. In this case, your doctor will explain why and address any safety concerns so you can make an informed decision. Though non-medically necessary, 3D ultrasounds can make for beautiful keepsakes, but it’s best to discuss the risks and benefits of them with your doctor.

Editors' Recommendations

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
What you should (and shouldn’t) bring to a playdate
Don't be a playdate overpacker
Two little girls playing at a playground


Now that your kiddo is a toddler, it's time to start planning for those playdates. Playdates are an important part of your little guy or gal's development. It will help them when it's time for that first day of preschool. Once you've arranged a playgroup or outing with friends for your toddler and it's officially on the calendar, it's time to think about what to bring on a playdate. Whether you're meeting at the local playground or going over a friend's house to play, we’ve got a list of the essential stuff you won’t want to leave behind, and some you should.

Read more
What the location of your baby’s kick means and how it changes with each trimester
An expert talks about baby-kicking locations
Pregnant woman feeling her baby kick

There’s nothing quite like feeling your baby move. It's a reminder that there's a human growing and thriving inside you. As the pregnancy progresses, those tiny flutters you feel during the second trimester turn into harder kicks and more frequent movements as they grow bigger, often resulting in what feels like the baby kicking your bladder constantly.
In the later stages of pregnancy, it's not uncommon to not only feel but see the baby kicking or moving around as they grow. But for some women — particularly first-time moms — those movements can sometimes cause concerns. Pregnancy is full of questions and worries, and it’s easy to read into every little fetal movement, particularly as the due date draws near.
The location of your baby's kicks, how hard they're kicking, and how often your baby kicks is something most expectant people find themselves tracking to ensure their baby is healthy. Fortunately, the location of your baby’s kick isn’t generally a sign of concern. So, no, you shouldn’t worry if your baby is kicking low or if your baby is kicking your bladder. To help you decipher fetal movement and put your mind at ease, we spoke with Dr. Tamika Cross, a Texas-based OBGYN.

Common locations to feel a baby kick
It’s normal to feel your baby kick throughout your abdomen, especially early during the second trimester.
"It depends on the way the baby is laying," said Cross.
They do somersaults in your belly, particularly earlier in the pregnancy, when they have more room to move. As amazing as it is to feel your pregnant belly move, there are a couple of places many moms wish their little ones would avoid.
"One of the most uncomfortable places is higher up in the ribs area or when the baby is very low kicking down toward where the maternal bladder is, sometimes forcing out a little urine," continued Cross.
As frustrating as this can be, there's, fortunately, nothing to worry about if they’re sitting pretty in these spots.

Read more
The ultimate nursery checklist of everything you need (and nothing you don’t)
The nursery must-haves baby can't do without
White nursery

Having a baby is such an exciting time, and so is getting their nursery ready. Planning what your little one's nursery will look like and shopping for all those new baby necessities is such a fine time for an expectant parent. What color will the nursery be? Will it have a certain theme?

Preparing for the arrival of your baby is a lot of fun but it can also be overwhelming. It can be hard to know what essentials you need to have in the nursery, especially if this is your first baby. Before outfitting your baby's nursery, it's helpful to have a nursery checklist. Doing so will help ensure you have everything you need when your baby comes home.

Read more