I had no idea what to expect as a first-time soon-to-be mom. And because I'm a control-freak, I went to each prenatal appointment with a long list of questions and concerns. My obstetrics provider was awesome and patiently explained symptoms, always encouraging me to call at any time. Then I went to my anatomy scan appointment and realized my OB-GYN wouldn't be there. In that moment a slew of questions I should've asked before my 20-week ultrasound flooded my mind. If only I had known how intense that ultrasound would be.
Looking back, I wish I had gone over everything with my OB-GYN beforehand. For example, I had no idea the 20-week scan is not just for finding out the sex of the fetus. Sure, that's the exciting part, but the scan is also an important part of prenatal care, whether you choose not to find out what kind of anatomy your fetus has or not. I also had no idea what would happen, who would be there, and what kind of next steps there would be once the ultrasound was over. In the end, with the exception of adjusting my baby's due date by a few weeks and scheduling a follow-up scan to monitor her growth and development, the entire process wasn't really a big deal. In fact, it was a pretty amazing experience, to say the least.
When you're pregnant, knowledge really is power. And while my 20-week ultrasound ended up being no big deal, it sure would have been less stressful if I had asked my OB-GYn the following questions:
"What Should I Wear?"
It might sound silly, but I learned the hard way that if you wear a dress to your 20-week ultrasound you will have to lie on a table with a paper sheet over your underwear, and while the ultrasound tech performs the exam. It was awkward. I wish I would've worn pants.
"How Accurate Is The Due Date Estimate?"
One of the first things I noticed on the ultrasound screen was that my baby's due date changed, based on the measurements made by the technician. Because my midwife wasn't there, I had no idea how accurate this estimate was or if there was a problem with my baby's growth.
"What's The Scan For?"
I thought the main point of the 20-week ultrasound was finding out the sex of your baby. I had no idea that it was an important screening and diagnostic tool. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), in addition to giving you a peek at your adorable little one, this test allows your provider to track your baby's development and health, measure their size, position, movement, and heart rate, screen for birth defects, and examine your anatomy, the placenta, and your level of amniotic fluid.
"Will We Find Out Results Right Away?"
On television, the doctor is always in the room and gives a patient news right away during an exam. That's rarely the case, especially during a screening ultrasound. I went to an off-site location for that 20-week ultrasound and my midwife didn't call me with my results until later that day. During my second pregnancy my midwife was in the room the whole time, and with my third I had an appointment to discuss the results immediately following my ultrasound. I wish I had known what it would be like each and every time.
"Should I Pee First?"
No one told me I needed a full bladder for my screening ultrasound, so of course I peed beforehand. As a result I had to drink some water and wait a bit for the tech to be able to get a good view.
"Is It Safe?"
As a first-time pregnant person I was pretty crunchy. A lot of my friends did things like birth at home, and even forgo prenatal care like the 20-week ultrasounds, out of fear that it might hurt their baby. Now I know that not only is an ultrasound safe, but it can be important for your baby's health.
"Does Knowing At 20-Weeks Make A Scary Diagnosis Easier?"
I'd heard so many stories of scary diagnoses and heartbreaking news at 20-week ultrasounds, so I was pretty scared going into my own. My first midwife put my mind at ease, though, telling me that while an ultrasound is an important tool, it's just part of the puzzle when it comes to prenatal care and diagnosing conditions early.
So, while it can be scary, especially when you have to wait for results, it's best to get all of the information you can before making decisions about your pregnancy and health care.
"What Comes Next?"
When I was pregnant with my second baby I found out that my provider was anti-choice, and wouldn't even schedule an anatomy scan until after 22-weeks (because abortions are banned after that gestational period in my state). I wish I had known that about her before I picked her practice, because when I asked her what options were available for families with an "incompatible with life" diagnosis, she told me there weren't any. That was terrifying.
"How Accurate Is The Sex?"
When the ultrasound tech said "it's a girl" my husband's first response was, "Are you sure?" He was joking, but I actually wanted to know how accurate these kinds of assessments are. She said, "Tt depends on if they are shy." Apparently our fetus wasn't shy, and the ultrasound tech was able to get a clear peak at a vulva.