When I was pregnant with my daughter three years ago, I had a series of scary ultrasounds full of "soft markers" -- the kind of minor warning signs that instantly make sonographers go quiet and immediately call in the doctor. I detailed those ultrasounds here and here and ever since have received a relatively steady flow of emails from concerned expectant mothers and fathers undergoing the same nerve-wracking process of wondering whether their babies are healthy.
The Schmoopette's markers included mild ventriculomegaly ("A normal lateral ventricle is not much larger than 7.5-8 mm. Anything over 10 but less than 15 mm is considered mild ventriculomegaly. Well, the Schmoopette's right ventricle measures at 9 mm and the left at a troubling 12 mm."); choroid plexus cyst in her brain; and an echogenic intracardial focus (looks like a bright spot on the heart). On their own, each of these markers isn't an issue, but together they ring the alarm bell for "something could possibly be wrong with your baby." In most cases, more ultrasounds and even an amnio are the advised course of action, even if, to put it bluntly, you are beyond the second trimester cutoff for termination.
I am revisiting this painful time in my last pregnancy, because I want to let all of those parents who find my posts in Google searches for those rare medical terms know that my daughter was born healthy. She had no chromosomal abnormalities, and each of the markers self corrected/disappeared. She did have a head sono shortly after birth and again at three months, but both showed normal ventricular size.
That being said, I know how blessed my husband and I are that she is fine. One mother who emailed me from Britain was not so lucky. Her hopes and dreams for a "just fine" outcome were dashed when two separate OB specialists confirmed that her baby had devastating chromosomal problems. He would not survive the pregnancy, even, so the doctors recommended termination. It was a heartbreaking outcome, and I felt awful at my presumptuous email saying "it will all be OK; you'll see."
The truth is, I have no idea if someone else's identically troublesome ultrasound will result in an identically happy outcome, just as I had no clue as I pushed my daughter out if she would have some rare genetic disease that the amnio didn't test for... I was so scared, and I join these Internet-searching parents-to-be in their doubt, their sleepless nights, their heartbreak of not knowing. I can only tell them that my pregnancy, my baby, my child was alright in the end. But that's just me and my story.
And for those of you wondering, I had my 20-week ultrasound two weeks ago, and this baby had NO markers at all. I even made the sonographer double check the ventricles and the heart, and he/she is A-OK. I cried in the car afterward, grateful not to have to worry right now, even though as we all know, there are no guarantees.