Blind couple gets 3D-printed ultrasound of unborn baby

Ana Paula Silveira and Alvaro Zermiani, both legally blind, were nervous when they found out Silveira was pregnant.

The Brazilian couple began to contemplate the magnitude of not being able to see their unborn child on an ultrasound and form that bond with their son, but with the help of modern technology, they were able to experience their baby in an entirely different way.

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"My major concern was not only not being able to see on the ultrasound, but I also didn’t know if someone else would really be able to describe to me what my baby looked like," Silveira told

That all changed, however, when they were offered the opportunity to have a 3D-printed ultrasound, through GE Healthcare’s technology, at an Institute in Rio de Janeiro.

Dr. Heron Werner, a Brazilian obstetrician and gynecologist, is the man behind the idea that helped Silveira and Zermiani meet their child through an ultrasound that they could feel.

“With the 3D printing I didn’t have to rely on someone’s description. I could have something that was real and I could see in the way I am familiar with," Silveira said.

GE Healthcare’s Voluson E10 is the first ultrasound system in the OB/GYN field to have a 3D printing capability built directly into the system.

"There was a 3D-printing project going on in 2007, where Computed Tomography was being used to image fossils and mummies at the National Museum of Brazil," Werner said. "I thought, 'Why not use this technology to print fetuses?"

In 2012, Werner started providing the service for visually impaired women, free of charge.

"There was a TV interview with Dr. Heron about his work," Silveira said. "I wasn’t pregnant yet at the time, but my husband and I kept the idea in mind for when it happened. One year later when we found out we were pregnant, we managed to get in touch with Dr. Werner who agreed to follow me through my pregnancy stages."

Dr. Werner provided three ultrasounds for each trimester of Silveira’s pregnancy that the couple was able to take home with them.

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“As you know for blind people, touch is really important and Dr. Heron provided an experience that we otherwise could not have had. It was life-changing," Zermiani told

The couple’s son, Davi Lucas Zermiani, is now 3 years old and they often show him the ultrasound of himself, which he loves.

“He knows it’s a model of him and we explained to him why it was made,” Silveira said. “He’s proud of it and he shows it to his friends.”