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When Something Shows Up on the Ultrasound

By Melanie Blodgett |

motivational words I’m going to share a personal story today because I’m sure it’s a scenario many of you have faced and I thought it might be comforting to hear from somebody who’s experienced the same thing. I know a few weeks ago I was looking for somebody to tell me everything would be okay.

At 19 weeks we went in for the ultrasound where the baby’s gender is revealed. I was so caught up in the excitement of it all that I didn’t even consider the possibility that something might show up that I wasn’t so thrilled about. The ultrasound took around 30 minutes to get all the measurements and by the time it was over my husband had to go back to work. I had to go check-in with the doctor and I did so assuming everything would be just dandy so I told him to go right ahead. I know now that I wish he would have stayed. I know he wishes he would have stayed.

I sat down with my doctor to discuss the ultrasound and she first gave me the rundown of what looked good. I was still on a high from knowing it was a little boy but then she said, “Now I’m going to tell you a couple things that I know are going to worry you out but I don’t want you to panic.” The tears started automatically.

What they found were two things. First, I have a two-vessel umbilical cord. Usually an umbilical cord is made up of two arteries and one vein. My umbilical cord is made up of just one artery and one vein. This is fairly common with no explanation of why it occurs. One issue they find with it is slow growth of the baby. There is nothing I can do about this, they just need to monitor the baby’s growth closely. The second thing they found was a cyst in the brain. Once again a common finding this early on in the pregnancy, but still cause for concern because it could be an indication of chromosomal issues. With these two things popping up, I was referred to an ultrasound specialist for a more detailed look.

This is not what a pregnant woman wants to hear. This is not what I wanted to hear after dealing with disappointing news from doctors for the past couple of years. I just wanted to hear, “Everything looks fantastic! In fact, your baby is the coolest I’ve ever seen. You’re so lucky.”

I, of course, was terrified even though my doctor told me not to be and the excitement of the morning was replaced by worry. I called my husband right away who automatically started researching the issues while I stayed away from the Internet, terrified it would make it worse. I told my mom, who reassured me, “The technology is so advanced now that they can spot even the littlest thing. They have to tell you what they find to make sure they cover their backs. Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” It helped some but I was still in tears.

Have you gone through a similar situation? How did you deal with the emotion and worry that comes even when people around you are reassuring you it will be okay?

This is getting lengthy so I’ll share the rest tomorrow.

image: Olly Moss

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About Melanie Blodgett


Melanie Blodgett

Melanie Blodgett writes daily on her blog You Are My Fave, which features a mix of parties, projects, and fave finds. She's currently settling into her first home in Denver with her husband Ryan and their baby son Beck. Read bio and latest posts → Read Melanie's latest posts →

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18 thoughts on “When Something Shows Up on the Ultrasound

  1. Dancing Branflake says:

    Oh goodness! My heart dropped when I read this. I hope all is well and praying for a safe and happy baby- the best looking baby they have ever seen.

  2. Leslie says:

    At our 20 week ultrasound they found 2 cysts in our girl’s brain and sent us for a more detailed ultrasound. Like you I was very upset and worried but the research we did said that it’s a common finding that most often indicates nothing. We were told that everything looked just fine at the detailed ultrasound and that the cysts were already shrinking. We now have a perfectly healthy baby girl. A friend’s little girl had the same thing and was just fine so I kept thinking of her when I started to worry.

  3. Liz says:

    At our 20 week u/s they found that our son had an underdeveloped cerebellum – a variation which might have been due to the baby’s positioning, or could have been indicative of a serious developmental condition. We went through a lot of additional testing, including 2 prenatal MRIs, and suffered a lot of anxiety and worry — but our son was born perfectly healthy and remains so today, nearly 3 years later. I’m currently 11 weeks pregnant and am terrified of the 20 week u/s. I think your mom is right, and her advice is similar to what we heard from a lot of doctors we encountered – the technology is so advanced now that it lets us see and know so much, but in many cases it surpasses medicine’s ability to diagnose what is being seen and what it means. Best wishes for a healthy pregnancy and baby, and try not to let the worry take the joy out of your pregnancy.

  4. Amy says:

    Ugh, such a stressful time!!! My husband and I had a similar ordeal, although we heard nothing at our big anatomy reveal — we were simply asked to come back in a week so they could get “better pictures of the brain”. I just assumed he was hiding, until I got a call that afternoon that rather than wait a week, they wanted us to return the next day.

    When we returned, and three different doctors came in to scan over our little boys head, I knew something was wrong. We were told he had what looked to be a brain menengicele (part of his brain poking through his fontanel) and were referred to a fetal MRI to confirm. After three absolutely horrifying and terrifying days, the MRI revealed that it was not such a serious thing, and in fact the doctor had “never seen it before” and that it appeared to just be cosmetic. We returned for monthly sonograms to confirm that the “lump” did not grow.

    He’s now almost 7 months old and meeting all his milestones ahead of time. He does have a bump on his fontanel that we will continue monitoring, but it’s been the same 2cm size bump since 20 weeks gestation. Hoorah for happy endings!

  5. TiffanyinSF says:

    What?! Share the rest now!

  6. Heather says:

    Yes I had a very similar experience. Our 20 week ultrasound revealed an echogenic focus (that’s a white spot on the baby’s heart) which according to some studies, can be a marker for Downs. They sent me for a more detailed ultrasound which confimed the echogenic focus but found no other anatomical abnormalities. Plus my quad screen came back within normal range, I’m under 35 (although I’m 33, not 23), and we have no history of chromosomal abnormalities in our family. I’m due in 13 days. I would be lying if I said it’s not in the back of my head as we approach the birth. But I’m trying hard to trust my doctors’ judgment that the baby in all likelihood is fine.

  7. Katie says:

    I’m so sorry for your stress. I understand it completely. At our 20-week ultrasound, we found out the baby had a small defect to do with his umbilical cord. It wasn’t connected correctly to his abdomen. We were told to see a high-risk OB in town, which we did the following week. Our experience at that appointment was devastating. We found out that this defect, an ompholocele, can be an indicator of other chromosomal issues (in our case, it was not). But the defect would have to be repaired immediately after delivery. We live in a small town so the baby would have to be transported to a children’s hospital in another city immediately. He would have surgery and stay in the NICU (again… not in our city) for 4-6 weeks. We were, of course, heartbroken. Even though we were assured that this is a minor defect that can be easily repaired and not threaten the baby’s quality of life in any way, I felt like I had failed in some way. I did not stop crying for four weeks, I think. It was truly, truly horrible. I am so sorry you’ve had to endure that panic as well.

    Our story turns out well, though. At 24 weeks we went back to the high-risk OB for another ultrasound (we were supposed to go every few weeks for the duration of the pregnancy). The ompholocele had disappeared and the baby’s cord looked completely fine. They brought us back at 28 weeks to confirm. No evidence of this defect exists now. I cannot tell you the relief I felt. I wouldn’t wish the anxiety of those four weeks on ANYBODY. I totally understand the emotions you’ve been experiencing. I am 39 weeks today and breathlessly waiting on our son to make his entrance. I have appreciated the last half of my pregnancy so much more. To know that I can bring him home from the hospital, give him his first bath (I know the nurses really do this…), nurse him (wasn’t an option before), and have my newborn experiences with him… that knowledge has been priceless. I hope the same for you. Please keep us updated.

  8. Rebecca S. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I just experienced something very similar, and I felt so alone because none of my friends had experienced anything similar. My doctor assured us it was nothing to be overly concerned about, but we saw a maternal-fetal specialist for a more intensive ultrasound. The issue with our baby is a marker for Down’s syndrome, but since there are no other markers and I am low risk because of my age (25), we are trying to be very positive about the outcome. I certainly have moments of anxiety, but I have been surprised by the calmness we’ve been able to handle it with. I don’t know where it comes from other than our faith and the support of our family. I always thought I would be unhinged if the slightest problem came up during pregnancy, but the truth is that I cannot control what is going on with my baby, I can only control my reaction to it and not let the times of anxiety overtake the joy of my first pregnancy. I pray everything turns out just fine with your little one and that you can enjoy the rest of your pregnancy! Thanks again for sharing your story–it’s sad to hear other scary stories but encouraging to know others can relate.

  9. Kgp says:

    I had the exact same issue with a two vessel cord. My OB warned me not to Google it since it was typically nothing, but who can resist. I was a wreck until I had a fetal echocardiogram a couple of weeks later which indicated the baby’s heart was developing fine. I did have to have regular growth ultrasounds as well (once a month). That baby is now a happy, healthy, thriving 3-1/2 year old. So hang in there and think good thoughts!

  10. Dori says:

    Due to our ages, my husband & I opted to have the First Trimester Screen [not the same as the quad screen] to test for specific chromosomal abnormalities [trisomy 13, 18 and 21]. The test results indicated there was a minute percentage that our child would be affected with one of these abnormalities. Even so, my OB sent us for a high level ultrasound at 20 weeks to make sure all looked well. Things were so great at the visit because we knew we were having a son, saw his profile and his little heart beat. THEN the high risk specialist burst my blissful little bubble by telling us that our little fetus had 2 choroid plexus cysts in his brain, which can be a marker for trisomy 21. I won’t lie…I had a meltdown. I, too, was told to stay away from the internet but as a health care professional I did quite a bit of research. With much reassurance from my husband, OB & repeatedly looking at the pictures from the US, I began to believe that our son didn’t have this fatal chromosomal defect. He was too active and had purposeful movements (open and closing fists) suggesting normal development. My OB couldn’t have agreed more and did so much to ease our minds that all was going to be well with our little boy. These cysts CAN be a marker but are only meaningful if there are other signs of impairment as well. In fact, this finding isn’t usually reported on level II ultrasounds in Europe as it’s not an uncommon finding. I am happy to share that we are blessed to have a 2 .5 yo son who has no developmental or intellectual impairment. He is the joy of our lives. We shared our story in the hope that you may find some comfort from our experience and to give you best wishes for a healthy and happy son!

  11. shalini says:

    Hoping everything is okay. Sending hugs and warm wishes.

  12. Ashley says:

    We just went in to our 24 week visit, to repeat the anatomy scan because the baby was uncooperative, only to find out he has an arterial septum valve disfunction and now we’re being sent to parinatology for further follow up. Baby may need heart surgery when he’s born, so my plans of an all natural birth are pretty much in the garbage by now, as for his safety, we’ll need to either induce or do a section to make sure the neonatal cardiology team is there and ready for his arrival and observation and possible surgery.

  13. Sarai says:

    I had a 2 vessel cord with my son (now 2 1/2). We had a Level II u/s to make sure there were no other problems, and then we had another growth u/s around 30 weeks. Since he was growing normally, we didn’t need any further u/s to check on his growth, and he ended up being a normal 7 1/2 lbs at birth.

  14. alifurt says:

    No one ever thinks about the awful news that can come of the 20 week ultrasound, especially after a perfectly normal 12 week scan. It sure wasn’t in the forefront of my husband and my mind when we went in 11/7/11 to find out the gender (after all that is what it’s about for us layfolk)… turns out it was nearly the worst day of our lives as we found out our son was likely not going to make it due to severe Fetal Hydrops. Two days later (after a lot of research and worry) at our general OB appt, we found out our son’s heart had stopped beating. I delivered our son still at 21 weeks on 11/10/11. I should still be pregnant and enjoying the holidays with family and my kicking baby fetus, but instead I’m simply not :’(

    I hope for you that everything will truly be ok and you have a healthy happy baby. Just remember that your doctor told you not to panic… that MUST be a good thing because it would have been a whoooole different tone of conversation.

  15. Kellie says:

    At our 20 week ultrasound we also were just excited to find out the sex of our baby (a girl) but they told us she had a hernia where the umbilical cord entered her belly. After many specialized ultrasounds for the remainder of my pregnancy, every 3 weeks, we found out that it was an omphalocele which is where her bowels were outside her body in a thin membrane sack. She would need surgery immediately after birth which would have to be done in a hospital 4 hours away from our home so I had a c-section birth at 39 weeks. It turns out its a chromosonal defect that caused the omphalocele. I had an amnio done during pregnancy to determine that she had Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome which is a childhood growth syndrome, thankfully it doesnt affect the brain. She had surgery the day after birth to repair her belly and put everything back in and she is now 8 months old and completely healthy and happy. During my whole pregnancy my husband and I tried not to worry over it all too much because we understood that there was nothing we could do about it and worrying would just make everything worse. We just did our best to research all we could about the problem and trust our doctors and their knowledge. Our miracle baby was born and went home from the NICU 10 days old, 4 weeks before they had predicted! Trust in God and our doctors made it bearable and we couldn’t be happier.

  16. TDee says:

    I had the echogenic foci as well on my daughters heart; I’m 28 and her dad is 48 but there are no significant risks for Downs for either of us. It was scary, but because my prenatal doctor was so upfront about we he saw and what it meant (which was pretty much nothing in particular) I managed to keep my wits about me during the wait to get my level II ultrasound. I’m 35 weeks now, and 3 weeks ago the spots were still there, but with the reassurance from both my prenatal and perinatal docs, I’m not worried!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    i too had this happen, i was so happy to learn it was a girl that i didnt notice how long it toke and how many dr. were called in, i was told to come back two days later, still not begin told anything i was happy didnt realize what was to come, two days later i went back still thinking nothing was wrong happy totally unprepared…. i got sat down brought a garbage can a glass of water, a box of klenex, and all this time i was just wondering what are they gonna do, i had two kids and had never had this happen. i will never forget that day i was told my baby had Congenital Diaphrgmatic Hernia a very common birth defect i had never heard of this, i used the garbage can, drank the water and used the tissue, its the news you never want to hear. I still dont know what to think of it, i just cried and still cry at the sight of a baby shes due on 12/30/2012 a few days away, and will still not be able to describe the pain you feel when begin told this type of news, she has a 50/50 chance but i belive in god will only choose the best for her,

  18. Lionspaw says:

    With my first child (my son), my entire pregnancy, save for 6 weeks, was made up of worry and terror. I started out being at risk for miscarriage due to low progesterone. Then we did the quad screening, which came back positive for spina bifida. We had a wonderful 4 weeks after the detailed u/s on that one where we found out that everything looked normal. Then at my next detailed u/s (my doctor wasn’t able to see the heart clearly at 20 weeks), my doctor told me “There is a problem”. My husband and I, thinking everything would be wonderful, thought that it would be okay if he missed this u/s. I know, like yours, he regrets it now. We got referred to one of the best maternal fetal specialists in the nation, who referred us to another that was closer to our home, but in the process, we discovered not only the initial birth defect my regular doctor found (diaphragmatic hernia), but also a VSD (hole in the heart). We were encouraged, but not pushed, to get an amnio done, which we did. We discovered that his issues were due to a chromosomal issue. Very rare chromosomal issue….

    The best advice I have to give to you (and to you Elizabeth) is to take it one day at a time. ENJOY EVERY MINUTE of both your pregnancy, and after your little one is born. And if EITHER OF YOU want to email me and ask me questions, (Elizabeth, especially you), I will be more than happy to talk to you.

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