The history of baby ultrasound scanning

Ultrasounds date back to the 1800s when physicists worked on finalising the fundamentals of sound vibrations.
Subsequent to numerous years of researches and permanent improvements, the underwater SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging), the RADAR and the ultrasonic Metal Flaw Detector have been designed. These devices are actually the precursors of the medical ultrasound equipments we use today and which are based on the same operating concepts, except that their design and range of use are more elaborate and more sophisticated.
There is however a question: What is ultrasound? Well, we may define the ultrasounds as the sound waves with a very high frequency, above the audible frequency range and which cannot be perceived by the human ear. In fact, these are the counterparts of UVs in the visual field.
If you wonder if ultrasounds can be perceived by your future baby’s ear, the answer would be that this is highly unlikely. Though it is made through the ear, the perception of these waves will be filtered also by the foetus’ brain, whose development does not end during pregnancy, but continues after birth. Therefore, the chances that the baby can perceive ultrasounds are almost nonexistent.
Ultrasounds have been used in medicine since the 1940s, initially for therapeutic purposes and later on for diagnostic purposes.
In obstetrics, their use began to show effective results in the 1960s. Professor Ian Donald, who led a well-known medical centre in Glasgow, pioneered the early developments in obstetric ultrasounds. In July 1955, he borrowed an industrial machine with which he started experimenting on his patients’ abdominal tumours. He discovered that different tissues reacted differently to ultrasounds, providing different “answers”. So Ian Donald concluded that the development of a future baby can be monitored by means of ultrasounds and that this would be simply an innovative method. The new technology has been accepted quite easily and has been used in clinical obstetrics since the early 1960s. The first accurate detection of foetal cardiac action, using ultrasounds, has been reported and documented in 1972. In the late 1970s, ultrasound use became an almost essential part of the care rendered to pregnant women and their foetuses, because various measurements and early diagnoses of foetal abnormalities have been launched during this period. The long series of developments in this field continued during the next decade, from 1980 to 1990.
Here are several of the most important developments in this area:
– the gel that is applied to the pregnant woman’s belly and allows better conveyance of the ultrasonic signal;
– the transvaginal or transrectal scanner;
– the first real-time mechanical vaginal scanner;
– the real-time colour imaging that allows tracking the blood flow;
– a modern ultrasound scanner that looks like a portable console with four wheels, with a monitor and several types of scanners;
– a major improvement in the quality of images offered;
– the 3D ultrasound machine.
With the amazing progress of science in the last 10 years, devices have been improved, and the quantity and quality of the information provided is highly superior. Today we are also able to provide 4D baby scans, which enable the real-time viewing of the baby and its movements, offering thus an extraordinary experience to parents-to-be.