Ultrasound Scare: The Disadvantage of Medical Technology

I’ve always been a fan of evolving technology. I love my iPhone, car with electronic dashboard, and my DVR to record all of my favorite reality shows to watch after our daughter goes to bed. Medical technology is also amazing. It has saved lives and continues to evolve for (mostly) the better. Medical technology has been able to find cancer before it has spread in the body, provide life changing and saving surgeries, and allows us to know more than we have ever known before.

I’ve recently wondered if knowing more than we have ever known before is really that much of a good thing, especially during pregnancy.

We’re pregnant with baby #2 and due the end of October. My husband and I went to the exciting 20 week ultrasound a few weeks ago and were able to see the magic of evolving technology when our baby’s face showed up on the 3-d scan. I remember feeling the same way with our daughter; this appointment made everything feel so real.

It’s often forgotten at this appointment that the tech is measuring every limb on the baby, checking every chamber of the heart, and searching through with a fine comb to make sure that baby is growing healthy and nothing is wrong. This is one of the biggest appointments of your 40 week journey, but the medical piece is often clouded by the excitement of finding out the gender of your little one (if you choose) and seeing he/she actually look like a little baby for the first time.

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I had forgotten the importance of this appointment too, that is, until we went back and met with our doctor after the ultrasound. She then said the words, “Everything looks good EXCEPT….” My heart sunk when I heard the word “except.” This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this feeling at our 20 week appointment.

With our daughter, I had a low lying placenta, which essentially means that my placenta implanted too close to my cervix. We found this out at our 20 week ultrasound, but our doctor let us know that 90% of the individuals with this have the placenta move up by 36 weeks and there was no harm to the baby. Well, I was the lucky 10% where it didn’t move up, and as a result had to have a C-section. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but I felt like I was living déjà vu again. I had another abnormal ultrasound result. This time I had a feeling this could potentially be more serious.

The words that followed “except” told us that our sweet baby had what is called a choroid plexus cyst on its brain. My doctor told us that it is found in a large number of normal pregnancies, but has also been found in babies with Down Syndrome. My heart sank even more when she mentioned this. Why was something like this happening again? I follow all the “rules” of pregnancy, work out, eat healthy, etc., and I was hearing again that my baby may not be 100% healthy.

She proceeded to tell me that they usually see other abnormalities in the scan when the baby has Down Syndrome, which our baby did not. So she felt confident that everything was okay, but of course couldn’t tell us for sure. We then were told we had a couple of options: we could have another ultrasound at 28 weeks to see if the cyst went away (they have found when they are part of normal development they go away at 28 weeks), or get a blood test called Materni21, which screens for Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders. Without hesitation I chose the blood test. Within a week we’d find out our results and know one way or the other what we were going to be dealing with.

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I’m a huge worrier and naturally have a lot of anxiety, so this news did not help things at all. Obviously if our baby had Down Syndrome we would love him or her to pieces, but it definitely changes the picture you have in your head for your family. For a week and a day I worried, prayed, had trouble sleeping, comfort-ate way too much, and just wasn’t myself while I waited for a call back from my doctor with the results. In my heart I felt everything was going to be okay, but in the back of my mind, I still assumed the odds were against me because of my first pregnancy issue. My anxiety was through the roof, and I had a hard time coping and dealing with even the possibility of a child that wasn’t healthy in medical eyes. After a long week of waiting, my doctor called with the results. The blood test was normal, which meant everything was good.

We were relieved with the news, but I began to wonder if what I went through in the last week was really worth it.

When I initially got home from the ultrasound, I did the one thing you should never do when getting scary news: I googled “choroid plexus cyst 20 week ultrasound”. Surprisingly, I was comforted by what I found. I read pages and pages of stories of other moms who had the cyst show up on their ultrasound with no other abnormalities, and their baby ended up being fine and healthy. I also found that 98-99% of these types of cysts are part of normal development, like my doctor had said. Finally, I found board posts of others saying that 10 years ago this type of cyst most likely would not have been picked up on a scan, but because of advancing technology, now it is. I read additional stories about others having different things come up on their ultrasounds and everything turning out okay, too. This made me question if medical technology is always such a good thing?

For a week I had heavy anxiety, which isn’t good for my growing baby, and was extremely worried about him or her. All to find out that everything was okay? I know doctors have to tell you everything, to cover themselves if anything were to happen, but do we sometimes know too much about what is going on? This little cyst most likely will be gone when we have another ultrasound at 28 weeks, but I had a week of worry and fear as a result of it. Others have issues monitored continually throughout their pregnancy, only to find out nothing is wrong when they deliver the baby.

I’m not denying the fact that a lot of ultrasound technology has saved lives. In fact, my daughter’s first scan showed my low lying placenta, which saved both of us. But when is it too much, and at what cost?

Technology is only going to evolve, and we’re only going to know more and more about our babies and pregnancies in the future. Of course we were overjoyed to find out that our baby is okay, but I’m not sure I can take another pregnancy full of anxiety and worry again.

Have you experienced an ultrasound scare or a scare as a result of medical technology?


 

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6 Responses to Ultrasound Scare: The Disadvantage of Medical Technology

  1. Nicki July 13, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    My friend in Hong Kong had a similar issue. They saw something “concerning” on an early ultrasound. They worried and weighed options, only to find out it was something developmentally normal that we usually don’t even notice because we do ultrasounds much later and less often in the US.

  2. Ashley July 13, 2016 at 9:26 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head! Our 20 week ultrasound showed spots on baby’s liver. This sent my anxiety soaring and sent me right to google. Which says very little about liver spots. Thank goodness for my dad’s reminder that it’s the radiologist’s job security to find something that needs another look. We followed up with fetal diagnostics at UIHC and while down to two spots from three. She wasnt as concerned. The doctor ordered a blood test and 15 weeks later we welcomed an absolutely perfect baby girl.
    A true case of technology being too good.

  3. Danielle July 17, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

    The same thing happened to me with my first!!! Thankful everything was ok.

  4. Corinn July 22, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

    We had a similar situation- At our big u/s the Dr thought she saw something wrong with our baby’s heart and that it could be associated with Down Syndrome. I was told I would need to have fetal echocardiogram in a couple of weeks to verify it. In the meantime we also chose to do the blood work to rule out Down Syndrome. I got my results back in about a week & wept with joy when the results came back normal! I cried again 3 weeks later when the fetal echo was also normal!

  5. Casie July 23, 2016 at 5:23 am #

    My son had an echogenic focus on his heart at 19 weeks. We were told that it would likely go away (mostly is a result of human error), but that there is a very small chance that he could have Down syndrome. We decided to not get the blood test. The focus was present at the second ultrasound and low and behold he was born with Down syndrome, but is a healthy baby. I’m glad I didn’t know prior to his birth. I would have been a wreck throughout my pregnancy. It was obviously hard to grieve the baby I thought I was having, but hey, my little man is the best. I’ve learned that Down syndrome is not so scary and that he needs the same things as every other baby. I’m honored to give him that.

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