Exploring The Potential Emotional Impact Of The Prenatal Ultrasound

This post made possible by the generous support of My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear
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This article originally published on mybabysheartbeatbear.com on January 2, 2016.

 

The day has come to say hello, to see the one who’s still so small.

A heartbeat will bring many tears, but still will come all the fears.

Will she grow strong and tall? Will we lose him… and my heart will fall?

Are there two or three? Will my birth choice be mine to make free?

My arms ache to hold you. My heart aches to know you.

Above all else though, I know you are mine.

I will love you in every way, no matter what the doctor will say.

Today is the day that I will see your face, tiny and real, you will move to a place

A place in my heart I had never found…

Until today’s ultrasound.

-E.MacDonald

Ultrasound

Ultrasound Day:

Seeing a heartbeat.

Seeing multiple heartbeats.

Not seeing a heartbeat at all.

Revealing a gender.

Fighting the urge to discover the gender.

Learning devastating news.

Counting ten fingers and toes.

There is no denying that a pregnancy ultrasound will change your life.  While most women may check it off as just another day of pregnancy, even seeing a healthy little baby swim around should spark a light of life-changing emotions. The miracle of life is one our society tends to shrug off and sometimes the effects can cause us to become unaware of how we truly feel towards seeing this tiny human being on a screen.

Technology is a wonderful (and scary) tool.  We learn so much in a matter of moments, whether it is a healthy or unhealthy pregnancy, if baby is growing well, whether vaginal labor will be a safe option, if the gender we dreamt of is what exists, and if everything is okay with the mother.  Primarily a diagnostic tool, the necessity of prenatal ultrasounds may be heavily debated but there is no doubt that as routine as they have become, the prenatal ultrasound is a significant moment in the lives of parents-to-be while providing information to care-givers to help the parents make informed decisions.  Along with this education comes the anxiety and fears before the truth is learned.  And what’s worse is that after this brief moment of time, the heart and mind will create a new laundry list of emotions based off of what was discovered during the ultrasound.

Let me state this: There is no right or wrong emotion to feel – Sadness to be pregnant, panic to be pregnant with multiples, triumph to have a healthy baby past a certain date, pride that you created this being, even confusion on whether to keep or adopt.  Emotions are a very personal thing, and you have a right to not feel guilty about any of them.

It is ok to let the tears fall.

A Healthy Pregnancy:  A healthy “typical” ultrasound will have you crying tears of joy; especially if you were terrified going into it.  It can also leave a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy in agony, as she will be filled with choices, fears, and guilt.

Multiples: Multiple heartbeats found on the screen may lead to disbelief, panic, excitement, and many many questions. Fear of placenta(s) and sac(s) and nutrients may dance through your mind endlessly.

An Unhealthy or High Risk Pregnancy:  Knowing you will be closely monitored may either be reassuring or cause further anxiety.  When the baby or mother is at risk, the emotional rollercoaster typically picks up quite a few more passengers. Bearing the weight of your own emotions, along with your family and friends will become all encompassing. Reaching out for support and having a safe sounding board to cry to will allow you the ability to have the healthiest version of this pregnancy possible.

A Miscarriage: Expecting to see a flicker of blinking light on the screen where there is none can be devastating.  It doesn’t matter if you are 9 weeks or 15 weeks when you see that the life you thought was growing has stopped. You are no less of a mother. It does not matter that others say, “The next one will stick” or “At least it ended this way instead of a sick baby.”  There was life within you.  Mourn in the ways you need to.

A Pending Loss:  To learn that your child will not survive the pregnancy will bring forth unexpected emotions – Joy that you will still have time to grow and love this baby, but so much heartache that you will never know him earth side.  There will be anger and fear, but hope that things will change. There will be days of normalcy, but so many of confusion and pain.

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A Genetic Marker or Cause for Concern:  Sheer panic may occur; heart-racing fears and a lifetime of scary images may cross your mind.  Stress will be unavoidable, but handling it well will be needed.  Further testing will be done, causing more emotions, more tears, and more prayers.

Gender Disappointment:  Gender disappointment is real. (Ask me how I know.) No one should make you feel guilty for your feelings of desire toward a certain gender. You know that you will love the baby that is growing, and that he was meant to be.  However, the heart will mourn the fact that you will not have ribbons and bows and tutus.  Taking the time to let go of those feelings will help you welcome the baby you are growing without resentment or sadness.

Placenta Complications:  A healthy baby.  A healthy mother. But a placenta that is covering the cervix or attached to the uterine wall improperly. This is a recipe for a mess of emotions.  Knowing everyone is absolutely healthy is reason enough to yell from the roof tops, but knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent a cesarean section from occurring will bring about lots of birth emotions and fears.

Fetal Positioning:  While at a normal 20 week ultrasound, there is no need for baby to be in birth position, if your midwife or doctor suspects an awkward position later in pregnancy, an ultrasound will be done to verify.  If you are planning a natural birth, this ultrasound may send you into panic mode.  There is always time, even during labor, for baby to turn correctly, but the fears will be real.  Letting go of stress will help the body relax, chiropractic care, specific exercises, and manual manipulation are all available to help.

No matter what you learn during your ultrasound, your pregnancy journey will be changed.  Sorting the emotions will be an ongoing (and hormonal) battle that can potentially affect your labor and delivery. Taking the time to accept your feelings and live through them will benefit your mind body and soul.  Try to handle your emotions by talking through them, living a healthy lifestyle, practicing a mind-centering exercise such as yoga, seeking acupuncture or chiropractic care, and finding support.  Your pregnancy and baby will be all the stronger if you can do this.

May your ultrasound be filled with many happy emotions, but be real with yourself.  Do not hide or feel ashamed with any emotion that comes rolling out.  Find support if you feel alone in your emotions.  Share your fears and sadness right alongside of the joy and excitement.  Let sorrows be known and heartache be felt for you will not truly experience the highest level of happiness until you have worked through all of your other emotions.

_____________________

me
Elizabeth is mom to four breathtakingly-beautiful children, and wife to one lucky man. She is a research writer, blogger, and a ghost writer of books.  As a natural-minded woman, Elizabeth takes pride in spreading factual information that may benefit other mothers and future generations.  She has spent the last seven years (and counting) growing babies in the womb and/or with breastmilk.  When she is not writing, she enjoys drinking wine, running, cooking, reading, homeschooling, and loving her family and friends.
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