I fell in love with my daughter during her 20 week ultrasound.
It was the first time I saw her and when she began to twist and turn, I knew my life would never be the same.
But as the ultrasound technician continued her scan, I started stressing over what the possible negative outcomes were for this test. I wondered what were they looking for, or when I would find out the results. These thoughts lead me to spend the remainder of the scan worrying about what they might find.
Thankfully, the scan showed that my daughter Annabell was healthy, but I couldn’t shake the idea that I wasted the majority of the time I had to see my baby that day, anxious out about everything I didn’t know about the test.
Looking back, what would have really helped me is knowing more about why I was getting this test, if it was necessary, whether ultrasounds could harm my baby or not and when I could expect my results. Having this knowledge could have helped me be more present with my baby at this special moment in my pregnancy.
In speaking with women on Expectful’s platform I’ve found that I’m not alone and that there’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the 20 week scan. Many women don’t know why they have to get it, if it’s safe, and what they can expect on the day of the test.
That’s why I sat down with the Head Of Obstetrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, Dr. Keith Eddleman – to learn everything there is to know about your 20 week scan so you can feel confident, informed and empowered during your experience.
Read more below and if you want to see the full live interview, sign up for Expectful here where you’ll find exclusive content from other prenatal experts that will help support you through your pregnancy.
In short, it’s a scan where we can get the most information about your baby’s anatomy. It’s done right in the middle of the pregnancy because at that point most babies are large enough that you can see all of the structures that you need to see.
What to do the day before the scan? Nourish Your Mind.
One of the best things you can do leading up to the day of your scan is to connect with your growing baby. Try setting time aside the night before your appointment to listen to our Being With Your Baby meditation. This meditation is designed to allow you and your baby to have a moment of presence with one another, so you can find relaxation and gratitude for this special time in your pregnancy.
When you arrive In the waiting room you’ll get some written information about the scan and what we’ll be looking for. In the ultrasound room you’ll be lying on an bed and you’ll have a screen above you where you’ll be able to watch your baby as they look at the anatomy.
What to do before your appointment? Take Three Minutes.
One of the best ways to find some calm before your scan is through a quick three minute meditation. On the day of the scan, arrive to your appointment with a few minutes to spare in the parking lot or waiting room. Pull out your Expectful app, go to the Urgent Care meditation library and select our three minute Body Scan meditation. This meditation will allow you to relax both your body and mind so you can feel more at ease before your appointment.
The first thing we do is listen to your baby’s heartbeat and check your amniotic fluid level to make sure it is at a healthy amount.
Next, we look at how the baby is positioned in the uterus. Since the baby is in a bag of water it can swim around and we want to make sure it’s a good place. Then the second part of the scan is when we do different measurements like checking your baby’s head circumference, femur length, and the circumference of the abdomen to name a few. Those parameters help us determine the size of your baby and the age of your baby.
After all that, we turn to the anatomy – starting from your baby’s head to your baby’s toes. We look at their brain, their face, their heart, lungs, diaphragm, stomach, intestines, kidneys and the bladder. Then we looks at their hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Lastly we look at your baby’s spine to make sure it’s closed on every level. This part takes a while because we’re looking so thoroughly through their whole body.
The third part of the scan is when we look at where your placenta is located to make sure it’s not in an area where it could jeopardize a safe delivery. Then we look at where your umbilical cord goes into your placenta and your baby to make sure everything is inserted properly. Then we look at the maternal structures like the wall of your uterus to make sure there aren’t any extra fibroids, your ovaries to make sure there aren’t any cysts or masses, and your cervix (the opening to your uterus) to make sure it’s closed and has significant length to hold the remainder of your pregnancy.
What to do during your scan? Come Back To Your Breath.
If you find your mind beginning to focus on worrisome thoughts during your scan, try bringing your attention back to your breath. With every inhale, say internally to yourself “I am present for this inhale” and with every exhale, “I am present for this exhale.” By doing this, you help your mind to stay in the moment rather than getting lost in what could or could not be in the future. Be gentle with yourself and if you find your mind starts to wonder again, simply come back to repeating being present with each breath.
You find out the results immediately.
There are several different levels of ultrasounds. Ultrasound means outside of the range of human hearing. There are different wavelengths of ultrasounds. Some wavelengths are intended to break up tissue, but the wavelengths that we use for diagnostics imaging are not at all in the ranges that could cause significant tissue damage.
Our machines have restraints on them so that they can’t go to that level of frequency that could cause damage. We constantly have our machines calibrated to make sure it can’t go into that range.
Ultrasounds have been used diagnostically for over 50 years now and there have been numerous studies done and none have shown that there is any effect to diagnostic ultrasound.
What to do if you worry about this during your scan? Start A Conversation.
If you find yourself beginning to worry about how this scan could affect your baby, begin speaking with the technician about your concerns and explain that you are asking because you are feeling uneasy about it. Often times, when we open up a dialogue and express our fears out loud we can find comfort and support in the people around us.
Hands down the 20 week scan.
No, it’s not really necessary, but let me explain why we do it. There are certain things that we can see at 16 weeks and we like to provide families with as much information as soon as possible as early as possible. Unfortunately, we can’t see everything, which is why you have the 20 week scan, but we offer the 16 weeks to catch any of the earlier things sooner.
If your baby is positioned in a way where it’s difficult for us to see than the gender might be more difficult to determine. In that case we’ll tell the woman our estimated that we aren’t 100% sure but we think it’s this or that.
What to do after your scan? Sleep well.
After the excitement from your scan has settled and your day has began to come to a close, allow your body and mind to ease into sleep. You could do this by listening to our Preparing For Sleep meditation or by trying our Waves Of Breath exercise below.
Waves Of Breath Exercise
Water has often been revered for its calm and healing properties. As another tool for drifting back to sleep, imagine that your in-breath is a wave floating into shore, and your out-breath is a wave slipping back into the ocean. Think of the ocean as sleep, and with every exhale you submerge deeper into rest. Repeating that continuously, feeling the flow of both wave and breath effortlessly moving as one.
Pregnancy can be a time of great excitement but also one filled with a lot of uncertainty, especially when it comes to things like testing. It’s my hope that providing education around the 20 week scan during this interview with Dr. Keith Eddleman helps women to feel empowered throughout their pregnancy and informs them of their choices when it comes to their maternal health.
For more exclusive interviews with experts in pre and postnatal care and meditations that can help ease your mind and increase your emotional well-being during pregnancy and new motherhood, head over to expectful.com and sign up for your free trial today.