Also, there's still a good chance the scans miss fetal abnormalities, which are important for expectant parents to know so they can make informed decisions. According to Dr. David Lloyd, a clinical fellow working on the new scanning technology called the iFIND project, only around half of all congenital abnormalities are picked up by 20-week ultrasound scans.
A huge reason it's so hard to get the high-quality 3-D images is because current ultrasound technologies only have a single probe. Sonographers only have one hand to hold the probe while their other hand changes settings on the ultrasound system.
The iFIND is hoping to fix that. The $10 million project, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, aims to use robotic systems (so humans no longer have to hold probes) and have multiple ultrasound probes that move around the top of the mom's womb to get the best images. The new system also automatically corrects small fetal movements to create clearer images.
It's not easy to "see" through the parts of the fetus with ultrasounds. But with MRIs, which use a strong magnetic field and radio wave and is safe to use in pregnancy, it's easier to see inside the body beyond the bone, muscle or fat. So the London-based iFIND team of researchers and clinicians combined techniques in ultrasound, MRI and computing to create the most detailed 20-week images ever.
They even created a 24-second video of one of their trial scans and gave it to ChannelMum.com to share with pregnant moms worldwide. The video is of a 20-week-old fetus of an anonymous mom. It's freakin' mind-blowing as you watch the fetus fiddle with the umbilical cord, turn its head and even kick Mom with both legs.
The iFIND project plans to roll out its technology globally. So hopefully soon, pregnant moms can have even better images to incessantly post to Facebook.