Waiting For Results: When Ultrasounds Just Aren’t Perfect


A few weeks ago, I reached a pregnancy milestone I secretly thought I would never see again: the full anatomy scan. Due to the recent miscarriage, my doctor recommended a Level II ultrasound to check for any possible genetic issues, despite the excellent numbers I received from my Quad Scan for genetic defects.

In the hopes of being sure we would have an active fetus so we could see the sex, I replaced my required pre-ultrasound water intake with juice.  The result was a rolling, jumping, hiccuping and kicking fetus that refused to stay still enough to be measured easily, and I was punished with a nearly two hour long exam on a very full bladder.

Our technician was friendly, knowledgeable, and determined to walk us through every bit of the exam, pointing out the chambers of the heart, the sides of the brain, even the layout of different organs as he told us of the myriad of birth defects he was eliminating.  He grinned as he showed us the penis and testes, shocking both of us, as we were both convinced we were having another girl.

But as the scan continued he became more quiet.  He gave us less reports, and kept scanning on and on, not explaining what he was trying to see.  He started taking more pictures, and room got noticeably less joyous.

When he finished, he congratulated me on my pregnancy and our new little boy.  He asked me when I would be meeting with my doctor next, and when I told him it was the following week, he assured me that the doctor should have my results by then, and if he didn’t, to have him call the lab and have them resent so he could go over them with me.

All I could think about as I left was that when we scanned my daughter, the technician told us everything looked perfect.  This technician told me my doctor would talk to me.

It was only once I was in the car and buckled into my seat that I realized he never offered me a picture of the baby.

The five days until I saw my doctor for my next appointment crawled as I imagined the different problems the technician could have found: a cyst on the brain, a hole in the heart, an enlarged organ, or one that didn’t function properly.  Maybe it was me, maybe my fluid was already too low, or too high, or my umbilical cord didn’t have enough veins in it. Maybe my placenta was too small, or not fully attached?  I ran through a litany of potential issues, then reminded myself over and over again that anything physical can likely be fixed with surgery, medication, something that can be addressed and conquered.

When I arrived at the doctor, I asked him what was wrong with the baby, and he brought up the report on his computer to show to me.

The technician found “a potential, possible abnormality in the right foot.”  The radiologist, it continued “examined the photos and deemed them inconclusive.”

“Follow up encouraged but not mandatory.”

A foot?  I had worried for nearly a week over a foot?

My doctor explained that the radiologist did not see whatever the technician thought he saw, but that they wanted to do another ultrasound in a few weeks. The baby might have been in an odd position, or it could have been something more permanent, like club foot.  If it was club foot, they would want to schedule appointments with an orthopedic specialist before his birth, since treatments begin at as early as four weeks while the bones are still soft.

I was listening, but at that point I hardly cared.  While my doctor explained casting options, and the possibility of having the baby wear a brace at night until he was two, I was too busy waiting to call my husband and let him know there would likely be no surgeries, no permanent issues, and that our baby should be just like all of the other babies in the nursery, just maybe a little less flexible in one leg for a while.

Our followup appointment gave us even better news.  The new technician, knowing what we were in to re-check the ultrasound, gave me a full explanation of what the original technician saw, and what she would be looking for.  She explained that she was re-measuring the bones in the leg to be sure they were both the same length, examining the angle of his foot in relation to the rest of the leg, and which direction it was pointing, watching for the flex while he kicked, and taking picture after picture from every angle she could find.  She spent almost 45 minutes on just one leg, telling me she wanted to be as thorough as possible.

Finally, she handed me my pictures, and she told me everything looked perfect. 

The radiologist and my doctor both confirmed the same a few days later.  Whatever issue the original tech saw had resolved itself once the baby began changing positions.  Our child was once again completely healthy.

Looking back, I wonder what my reaction to the news that our little boy may have club foot would have been had I not already been sure that something was wrong, and imagined much more dire scenarios?  Did I worry myself needlessly over a dash of mother’s intuition and a very overactive imagination? Or did the waiting actually in some ways help me, because anything that wasn’t life threatening was suddenly like getting a gift? 

All I know is that when I was told what might possibly be wrong, I actually felt relieved that it was all I had to deal with.  All parents hope that if they are faced with a child who has a disability, they will be strong enough to handle it. 

I was very, very afraid I wouldn’t be.

The days of limbo reminded me to appreciate how lucky I am, first, to have gotten this far in my pregnancy, and now to have a healthy baby.  It was a reminder I most definitely needed.

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  • radicalhousewife

    ….and it’s horrible.  In our case, the tech saw spots on my daughter’s brain that looked like mysterious cysts.  MYSTERIOUS CYSTS??!!  on her BRAIN?!!  I freaked.  By the follow-up, they were gone. The explanation for why I spent two weeks worrying myself to pieces?  that ultrasound technology is so good that doctors are seeing stages in fetal development they didn’t know about before.  Maybe babies ALWAYS have those spots in their brain, but no one could see them!  Ha ha ha ha!  We laughed all the way to the parking lot.  So funny.

     

    Ugh.

     

  • ehg

    I’m glad that everything worked out for both of you.  I had a bad test result with my first pregnancy and had to wait almost two weeks from getting those results for an ultrasound.  Unfortunately, that ultrasound and the accompanying follow-up tests showed severe fetal defects that were incompatible with life.  Waiting for those results is terrible, but I agree that all the worry would make a minor issue be a relief.