If you're planning to get a 4D ultrasound to see a moving image of your baby, you know that you're in for a treat—if you can get the best image possible and if you know what to expect from the finished ultrasound image. 4D ultrasounds offer more visual information for you, the expectant parent, but they do come with some conditions that you have to consider first.
Elective vs. Diagnostic
These ultrasounds are mainly elective and informational. They're not really diagnostic, though WebMD notes sometimes doctors can see conditions like cleft palate a lot more on 4D ultrasounds instead of 2D. There have also been additional studies, like this one from 2011, that found that fetal behavior patterns could be identified using 4D ultrasound. But overall, you as the parent should expect that this will just be an image and not an actual test to determine whether the baby is healthy or not. If you want a diagnostic test, talk to your OB/GYN about getting a 2D test (the standard flat-image ultrasound) or seeing if your doctor would be willing to use a 4D for diagnosis for specific issues.
Because the test is usually elective and not diagnostic, your insurance might not cover it. This is highly variable because of the ability to spot some conditions using 4D. You may want to talk to the business office at the clinic where you're getting the test to see what their track record is on getting insurance to cover part or all of the cost. Of course, if your doctor does use it as a diagnostic test or to enhance information from other diagnostic tests, then you may have a better chance of having the cost covered at least partially.
Ultrasound techs usually have to undergo intensive training to administer and interpret ultrasounds. However, some places that specialize in 4D ultrasounds employ people who don't have the same training as regular 2D ultrasound techs. This is not always the case—many 4D clinics employ fully educated and trained ultrasound techs for the 4D procedure. But do check ahead of time if your tech will have the required training. He or she will be better able to tell if something has gone wrong with the machine or if you need to have a diagnostic ultrasound done at your doctor's office.
Clinics and doctor's offices offering 4D know that the video of your baby moving can be not only a great keepsake, but also a way to provide comforting images as you go through your pregnancy. With the right people helping you, you can get a great image of your child to show.