At 25 1/2 weeks along, Tanya Mundo feels as if she has been pregnant forever. It was time, she thought, to meet her twins.
So last week, Mundo and her two children, Angelica Davila, 12, and Cristian Ruiz, 14, traveled from Frederick to Columbia to visit Baby to Be Images, a business that offers highly detailed ultrasound pictures.
"It's just exciting because you can see the babies a little more," Mundo said.
Babies to Be is owned by Linda Rihani, who opened the business about four months ago in a new office building on Columbia 100 Parkway.
Her business is part of a group called United Imaging Partners, which has about 80 locations nationwide, she said. Rihani leases a GE Voluson 730 PRO machine, which gives "very clear pictures," she said, and came up with the name Baby to Be.
Though ultrasounds have been giving pregnant women glimpses of their fetuses for about 50 years, the 3-D and 4-D ultrasound technology is about five years old, she said. (The 4-D refers to movement, she said.)
Some experts don't recommend getting extra ultrasounds. They argue that the machines, which rely on energy waves, might not be safe for fetuses, and they note that operators are not equipped to diagnose problems.
Rihani says her machine uses the same technology as the 2-D ultrasounds that have been used in doctors' offices for decades. As for the questions about the safety of ultrasounds, she said that a recent study looked at mice who had more than 200 hours of ultrasound, she said, which is far more than a human would ever have. She also said that doctors usually recommend more ultrasounds for high-risk babies.
Rihani is not a doctor, so she cannot make diagnoses. That is why all customers must be receiving prenatal care, she said. If, by chance, she did see something unusual on the screen, she would refer customers to her doctor. She also works closely with an obstetrician, she said.
Rihani offers packages ranging from $89 to $249, depending on whether customers want a DVD recorded to music, a CD-ROM to play on the computer, and a Web site. Mundo opted for a DVD and CD. All packages include the opportunity to see the fetus floating around on a screen for 15 minutes to a half-hour.
Rihani is seeing about 100 customers a month, from as far away as Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, she said. Some come in twice, once at 27 weeks and again closer to the end of the pregnancy, she said.
"I find the best time to come in is usually 33, 34 weeks," Rihani said. That's when the pictures are clearest, she said.
Customers such as Mundo walk into a soothing waiting room with a comfortable seating area, gentle music and Anne Geddes prints on the walls.
As Mundo and her children watch the screen, Rihani narrates. "Here we see a little baby face," she says. "This is an elbow. This is an umbilical cord."
Rihani starts out with the regular black-and-white ultrasound that most pregnant women are familiar with, then switches to the more detailed 3-D and 4-D version. Mundo's case is challenging because the twins, one boy and one girl, are crammed together.
Still, Mundo and her children are fascinated as they watch the faces and tiny toes come into focus. "They're very squished," Rihani says. "All their legs are right up in their faces. All their toes -- look at all those toes."
"I can see them," Angelica says. "Is this the boy or the girl?"
"I'm pretty sure it's the girl," Mundo says.
As the session ended, Mundo said she was happy with the results. "You get to see a little more of the face shape," she said. "They just seem more real."
Baby to Be Images is at 8860 Columbia 100 Parkway, Suite 208. 410-730-2222.