As far as I’m concerned, an ultrasound is one of the coolest inventions ever. An ultrasound visit, however, is one of the biggest emotional rollercoasters a pregnant mom can experience. Getting to see your baby-to-be is amazing, but there's so much potential for both good and bad news. If you're anything like me, you'll probably spend most of your scan analyzing every little detail you can in an attempt to figure out if you should be even more worried than you already are. But chances are, any scary things your baby does during an ultrasound are totally normal.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: ultrasound visits are the best, but ultrasound visits are also the worst. They're particularly freaky for moms with anxiety and first time moms who don't have the benefit of hindsight and at least one full-fledged baby to reassure them that most of the weird stuff they're seeing, is perfectly normal and an indication that everything is OK. If at all possible, try and bring someone else with you for support, especially if you’re worried you’ll get bad news. Also, it's fun to have someone else along for this emotional rollercoaster of a ride so they can see how your baby is doing, especially if they do something funny or weird. Then you have at least one witness who can attest to the ridiculous thing your baby-to-be did, so no one thinks you're losing your pregnant mind.
So, don’t necessarily freak out right away if you see any of the following, since a lot of babies do this stuff and it’s totally fine. I know, I know: telling a mom not to worry is like telling a toddler to not to smash bananas all over the couch. It's going to happen. Well, then, may the following will at least give you some measure of comfort during your freaked-out post-appointment Googling.
Look Like A Ghoul
Almost every parent I know, myself included, has at least one ultrasound image where their then-fetus turned their face directly toward the ultrasound wand and looked like some kind of horrible demon (or StrongBad from Homestar Runner). This doesn't mean you're going to birth an alien (which is great news because in addition to being far less cute than human babies, that would probably complicate your postpartum recovery).
Not Look Anything Like A Baby At First
I blame the media for creating the false expectation that an unborn baby will always look like a baby on an ultrasound. (I also blame them for leading new moms to believe that their first ultrasound will be a cute, over-the-belly experience. Nope.) Real babies start off looking like anything from a blob to a bean to a seahorse in many of their first pictures and especially if you get a dating ultrasound at eight or so weeks. That's normal.
It's also normal to not be able to actually see the barely-even-a-fetus at all, or have a difficult time keeping its image visible. If you go in much sooner than eight weeks, or if you mistakenly think you're further along than you are because of a quirk of your cycle, your little one might be too small to see, even though they're there.
Flop Around Wildly
In my second ultrasound with my son, when he stopped looking like a sea creature and started to resemble a gummy bear's best impression of a baby, he was also moving around a lot. Like, waving his arms, doing somersaults, and flopping around like he had the Holy Ghost in church or something. I was worried he was upset or in distress, but no. Just being his hyper little self, even in his first trimester. Normal.
Lay Very Still
It's also normal for babies to just chill sometimes, though that can be so nerve-wracking for parents anxiously wondering whether their kid is OK. If you have an appointment during one of your baby's normal calm times (or even sleeping times), they may not be moving much, but that doesn't mean anything's wrong.
Lay In An “Odd” Position
Another false expectation I personally got from TV and movies: babies in ultrasounds are always lying on their backs, calmly sucking their thumbs or whatever. Imagine my freaked-out surprise when I saw my son belly-down, doing some sort of weird dance move during one of our later anatomy scans. Babies can be in lots of positions in your uterus (and relative to your ultrasound tech), so of course they can appear to be in many positions besides the classic, kicked-back pose.
Grimace Or Make Other Weird Faces And Gestures
In addition to moving a lot, babies start to develop the ability to make different facial expressions during their second trimester, so they may be practicing some of those new tricks when you see them on screen. It doesn't mean they're in pain or distress at all. Totally normal.
Babies also start developing their reflexes in utero, so you may see them respond to your voice or the pressure of the tech on your belly (or just anything really) while you're having your ultrasound. This also doesn't mean they're in any distress, it just means you're getting to see the reactions they normally have to things as you go about your day.
Play With Their Umbilical Cord
This one freaked me the whole hell out for the remainder of my pregnancy. When my son batted his umbilical cord during his 20-week anatomy scan, I almost fainted. Like, dude! WTF are you thinking? That is your lifeline, don't pull your cord! The tech, my midwives, and many internet moms reassured me that this is a thing many unborn babies do, and they do not have the muscle tone or strength to really hurt themselves. Honestly, though? I'm only calm enough to include this one on the list 'cause my now-toddler is upstairs yelling right now, this very second and as I'm typing. Scary, but normal. But OMG, scary.
Kick Or Hit The Ultrasound Transducer
In the course of dancing and flailing and otherwise being a natural little miracle viewed through a scientific miracle, they may bump the ultrasound wand. It may feel intentional if it happens more than once, or you might even worry that they're knocking it because it's bothering them. They're not specifically trying to kick the wand, though. They're just kicking you, per the norm.