I am sitting here on “ultrasound eve”, aka the night before my next scan. I always have a certain level of anxiety and excitement prior to these appointments. So far everything has checked out fine with this pregnancy, but it is not something I take for granted – EVER. This little life growing and kicking inside of me is truly a miracle, as is every baby. His continued growth and development here in the third trimester is just as important as it was in the first trimester, so I worry… and look forward to seeing him on the big screen tomorrow.
A fellow heart mom, who is one of the biggest advocates for babies and educators of parents wrote a great blog post on Congenital Heart Defects. Kristine McCormick is keeping her baby Cora’s memory alive through her work. Kristine wrote “Reading about CHD is something every pregnant woman should take a few moments to do. Knowing the signs and symptoms and researching detection methods saves lives.”
With Cora in mind, I wrote a letter to all my pregnant and to-be-pregnant friends.
Dear Pregnant Mamas,
Whether this is your first pregnancy, second, third or even fourth – every experience is different. Every baby grows and develops on his own terms. Although you may have had uneventful pregnancies before, this one may unfortunately be full of aches and pains you never knew were possible. Just as a previously scary pregnancy may now be replaced with a textbook version, without any worry or concern for the baby’s or your safety. Please, for the love of your child, do not take good health and perfect tests for granted.
You will more than likely have a few ultrasounds during your pregnancy, some more exciting than others. As the baby grows bigger, the face is more detailed and you may catch a glimpse of the profile and see daddy’s nose or your own lips. Later in your pregnancy, when the kicks are more pronounced and forceful you may dream of a soccer career or a ballet performance for your baby. Around 18 – 20 weeks you will be offered an ultrasound, please accept it – please take the time to have this test, it may be the MOST important 30 minutes of your entire pregnancy. This ultrasound is often referred to as the “anatomy scan”.
The anatomy details that the ultrasound tech and your doctor are most concerned about are NOT the ones revealing your baby’s gender. Though you will more than likely find out if your little baby will be wrapped in a pink or blue blanket after delivery, it is not the most important information you will leave with that day.
Important facts: One in one hundred babies born have a congenital heart defect. Some of these conditions can be corrected with surgery, but knowing that your child has such a defect, or any other condition, can greatly improve their outcome. Getting proper and specialized medical attention immediately after birth is often necessary for a baby with heart defects. Knowing ahead of time what lies ahead for your baby will also help you prepare mentally and practically, so you can still envision and have the fairy tale first meeting with your bundle of pure love.
Below is a list of some of the things your doctor will look for during the anatomy scan, and if they do not specifically tell you that all these things checked out – please ask. Most ultrasound techs are trained to tell you that they cannot discuss their findings with you, but it cannot hurt to ask anyway during the test. The ultrasound is your opportunity to shine as an educated mama and learn as much as you can about your unborn child.
- Amniotic fluid levels: should not be too high or too low.
- Umbilical cord: should have three vessels.
- Placenta: placement and size.
- Cervix: size.
- Four chambers.
- Heart and stomach in correct position, should be on left side of the fetus.
- Heart rate, normal range for fetus is 120-180 beats per minutes.
- Heart function, although this may be hard to confirm with a regular ultrasound.
- Brain: shape and size of fluid filled areas.
- Face: cleft lip. It is hard to detect a cleft palate.
- Spine: in alignment and covered by skin.
- Major organs: size and location of stomach, two kidneys and bladder.
Hopefully everything checks out fine and the doctor does not find anything of concern. However, if the test reveals areas that require further testing or closer monitoring, please be sure to ask as many questions as possible. If necessary, find the best specialists in your area, or even travel to see the doctor who treats the most children with the same condition that your child MAY have.
Best of luck with all your prenatal tests. Last but not least, love your baby and never lose hope.
A mama who has been there.
On that note – I will now go to bed and pray for baby Jonah’s good health and my continued incubation of him for another two months.