Since first I first read the positive pregnancy test result back in February, I have been counting down the days to my 20 week ultrasound when I would get to see my baby on the ultrasound screen and hopefully find out if it was a boy or a girl. So when the day finally came I was nearly bouncing off the walls, and not just from the intense need to pee, but out of sheer excitement. Laying on the table and seeing my baby girl waving her arms and legs around was amazing. While the photos look a bit like black and white blobs, I can see her so clearly. I think she even has my nose.
After the ultrasound I went to work and shared the news with some of my coworkers and family members. When we got home from work that day I checked my cell phone, to see that I had two missed calls from my midwife and one voicemail message. My heart automatically sank. My midwife will always call with any and all test results, but the two missed calls plus the third call and message left me on edge. When I listened to the message she informed me that she wanted to talk to me about my ultrasound results, that she was unfortunately heading home for the day, and to call back and leave a message and a telephone number that I could be reached at the next morning.
Needless to say I hardly slept that night and was sitting on the edge of my chair at my office the next day waiting for her call. When she called, she told me that the ultrasound had shown that baby girl had two shadows on the left and right ventricle of her heart. Baby also had what the ultrasound tech considered to be an abnormal amount of fluid in her stomach. The shadows on the heart, are called echogenic intracardiac focus (EICF) and are considered to be a soft-marker for Down’s Syndrome. The fluid in the stomach is of concern to my midwife but isn’t indicative of any potential health concerns for baby girl, but warrants further follow-up. My midwife told me that she would be referring me to the BC Women’s Hospital where I would have a high frequency ultrasound performed to verify the 20 week ultrasound results. She tried to assure me not to worry about the results, but as a first time Mama to be, telling me not to worry is pretty much pointless. She said that EICF is common seen in healthy babies, and that in combination with the results of my Serum Integrated Pregnancy Screening (SIPS) results that I should try not to worry.
For those of you having babies in your 20s, you might be thinking SIPS? What’s that? I will be 31 when baby girl is born so I opted to have SIPS screening performed which requires a blood sample at 10-12 weeks and 16-20 weeks. The results of this test will be either positive or negative and give you a ratio on what your odds of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality are. In my case, my SIPS test was considered to be negative, as my chances are around 1 in 46,000.
My husband and I made the decision not to tell anyone in our family that we were having any additional testing done. For me this decision was based on the fact that I was having a hard enough time keeping myself calm, I didn’t want to have to reassure family and friends that everything with baby was likely just fine. I also didn’t want to have to make a bunch of phone calls following the ultrasound with good or bad news. If it was going to be bad news, I felt that I would need some time on my own to accept the news before I shared it with others. Luckily we did not have to wait long for the second ultrasound and it was scheduled for a week after our first ultrasound.
Getting through that weekend was tough, but what really helped me was talking to a couple of friends of mine who had been through similar situations. I knew at least 3 women who had been through similar scares and who had perfectly healthy babies. Also, reading about EICF online was strangely reassuring as well. I found the following sites and message boards to be of help:
From what I could read on the internet, EICF was one of the most benign of the soft markers when taken into consideration with other screening procedures. I could not find any information on what the extra fluid in her stomach could be about.
When the day of my second ultrasound came, I felt nervous and sick to my stomach. My husband I sat through the ultrasound with nervous smiles plastered on our faces while the tech went through the different areas of concern. Seeing baby girl up on the screen, even under the circumstances, was as amazing for me as it was the first time in spite of everything. This time the tech really walked us through the ultrasound and told us something that I wish my midwife had said “Ultrasound technology is not a perfect image. It’s not the gold standard of imaging, sometimes things that show up on an ultrasound image are totally benign”. After the ultrasound the tech consulted with the doctor and came back to tell us that the baby’s stomach looked completely normal and that she did confirm a EICF on the left ventricle. She said that in combination with my negative SIPS screening means that my chances are now around 1 in 23,000. As such, the doctor was not recommending any further testing for me, as the EICF is seen in 5 to 10 percent of perfectly healthy babies.
After the ultrasound we also had an appointment booked with a genetic counselor who told us the exact same thing. So almost a week later I can say that I am finally starting to feel relaxed about the entire experience. I do not want to start a debate on the merits of genetic screening because that is an individual choice that every parent has to make, for me it was about being able to prepare myself in the event that baby girl could have special needs when she arrives. Will I go through it with my second (the baby gods willing), yes I will.