Friday, April 06, 2018 by Frances Bloomfield
The future of ultrasound has arrived: expectant mothers may soon be able to acquire 3D print models of their unborn babies.
This unique service is being offered by Russian firm, Embryo 3D. Their process is simple enough. Once they’ve been given a complete ultrasound scan of an embryo, they then go about converting it into a 3D print. The models used to be made solely of plastic, but the company has since upgraded to printing with heavy-duty plaster as well. Soon-to-be mothers wanting to add a bit more pizzazz can even opt to have the models of their babies covered in precious metals.
Speaking about what inspired him to do this, Ivan Gridin explained that the idea originated from a friend. “I have a friend (who) was worried about the health of her child and wanted to see it. She had an ultrasound several times, but it wasn’t enough. I was fond of new technologies at that time and 3D-printing. And I said ‘let’s print it,'” said Gridin.
The results are nothing short of stunning. All the models produced by the company thus far are loaded with intricate details. Tiny hands and feet; tangles of umbilical cords; some of the models even feature embryos with slightly scrunched-up faces and parted mouths. Additionally, parents can choose between having the models attached to a stand or as is, to make it easier to hold them.
News of this service has elicited a variety of reactions. Yuliana Recun, who placed an order for a 3D print model, has called it “weird,” but nonetheless feels awed. Speaking to IBTimes.sg, Recun said: “We ordered a 3D model of our child, which is in my belly now. It is a weird feeling, the child hasn’t been born yet and but you can touch it and feel it as it is.”
Dr. Deborah Levine, who reviewed the process, commented: “Patients, of course, love 3D pictures, but as radiologists we have to be careful that we’re not performing an ultrasound for the fun of it.”
Used safely, ultrasounds will have no negative impact on either mother or child. According to Parents.com, however, there is a slight risk involved in ultrasound; that risk being the energy carried by sound waves into the fetus. There’s a slim chance of that energy heating up the tissues surrounding a baby, though their exact effects are still a mystery. “The possibility exists that some ill effects may occur when ultrasound is used inappropriately,” stated obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Michele Hakakha. (Related: Excessive private ultrasound procedures putting babies’ health at risk.)
Regardless, this technology has the potential to help parents and doctors alike. Medical professionals will be able to assess any abnormalities developing in fetuses early on, while parents can have a more intimate look at their children before they’ve even exited the womb.
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