You may have picked up this book because you or someone you know is embarking on the momentous nine-month journey of pregnancy and you are curious about the miraculous hidden world inside the womb—a world that has become fully visible only recently. After generations of being limited to wondering and imagining, we now have the technology to peer inside the uterus and actually watch the development of a new human being from a tiny group of cells to a fully developed baby, ready to emerge from the mother’s body to greet the world.
Through ultrasound images, not only can we see the developing heart, lungs, and other internal organs, we can also—thanks to new three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound techniques—see the baby's face and limbs. We can even capture movements of the unborn baby on video. Doctors use these images and videos to check for problems that may arise during pregnancy and to help guide the care of pregnant women. But for parents-to-be, the excitement of this technology is the opportunity to start to get to know their baby before the big arrival day. All images in this book were obtained as part of diagnostic medical ultrasounds, performed to give the doctor information about the developing baby and the progress of the pregnancy.
How does ultrasound see the developing life inside a mother’s body? Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves (at a pitch higher than humans can hear) to create images of structures such as organs or blood vessels inside the human body. The process is similar to the sonar used by bats, ships at sea, and anglers with fish detectors. As the sound wave passes through the body, echoes are produced and bounce back information about how far away an object is, how large it is, its shape, and its consistency. A computer then “translates” this information into the ultrasound images, also called sonograms, which parents see on the screen. In addition to the 3D images just described, these include two-dimensional (2D) images, which represent cross-sections or “slices” of the body (like slices of a loaf of bread) that reveal details about internal organs such as the baby’s heart. By contrast, the 3D images show the baby's outer contour, almost as if there were a miniature Hollywood film crew floating next to the baby in the mother’s uterus, taking pictures and videos of the baby growing and developing.
Your Travel Guide
We have written this book as a kind of visual travel guide to the world within a mother’s body, and to the journey of pregnancy. You will see what the baby looks like inside the womb at every stage of development. Explanations and diagrams will help you understand how the baby grows and develops and visualize the baby’s current stage of development throughout the pregnancy. Furthermore, if you are pregnant and have had a sonogram, this book can help you understand your own ultrasound pictures.