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An ultrasound is a regular procedure for expecting couples, and it’s not unusual for the parents to take a black and white print of the fetus home with them.
But the rapidly evolving technology of 3D printing is giving parents – and scientists – a much clearer view of their baby.
A clinic in Japan is offering to print models of fetuses from inside pregnant womens’ stomachs – and even giving them a copy to take home as a memoir of their pregnancy.
Technicians use MRI scans and a technology called Bio-Texture modeling, which converts the MRI data into a 3-D image.
Then a 3-D printer builds up the three-dimensional image.
“These days in Japan the age at which women are becoming pregnant is increasing and the number of children women give birth to on average has decreased to just one or two. Furthermore, couples in their 30s and 40s are generally financially stable and are willing to go to greater lengths to preserve the memory of the pregnancy,” explains Dr Satoshi Sohda, a director at Hiroo Women’s Clinic in Japan.
Kumi Mendoza is seventh months into her first pregnancy and being able to see and hold her unborn child is a new experience that she’s very grateful for.
“When I first saw it I was really moved. The nose and the lips looked so real and the print looked like something that had been done by hand. I’m still surprised that a machine could produce something like this,” she says.
And the the technology may soon serve another purpose.
By allowing for greater clarity and detail, developers hope the 3D modeling can be used to improve the health of babies and mothers in the future.