For many loss parents, it’s during an ultrasound when they learn that their baby has died. Even if the scan isn’t the first indication of something wrong — maybe cramping, lab work, or lack of movement hinted at a problem — an ultrasound is often what confirms the worst possible news. It’s no surprise, then, that future ultrasounds will likely trigger painful memories, possibly filling the experience with anxiety and fear“Pregnancy After a Miscarriage,” Tommy’s, https://www.tommys.org/baby-loss-support/miscarriage-information-and-support/pregnancy-after-miscarriage.
Still, prenatal imaging is part of the standard of care for pregnant people. During a low-risk pregnancy, providers may order one early ultrasound at about 7-8 weeks to establish a due date. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends all expectant parents have an ultrasound around the 20-week mark to get a good look at the baby’s anatomy. Therefore, it’s important that folks who are pregnant after loss are ready for these scans. Here are four ways to prepare for ultrasound appointments during pregnancy after loss.
1. Educate Yourself
One of the best ways to combat fear is by arming yourself with knowledge. Become familiar with why ultrasounds are beneficial. While prenatal imaging can’t guarantee anything or predict how your pregnancy will progress, it may give you some peace of mind. For example, if you’ve had an ectopic or molar pregnancy in the past, an early scan will be helpful because it will allow your provider to see that the embryo is developing appropriately and in the right place“Pregnancy After Miscarriage,” Miscarriage Association, https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/your-feelings/pregnancyaftermiscarriage/.
Other benefits? Ultrasound in the first trimester is the best time to get an accurate due date. Plus, as early as 6-7 weeks, a transvaginal ultrasound can detect the baby’s heartbeat, which is often a reassuring sound to loss parents. The mid-pregnancy anatomy scan, usually scheduled between 18-22 weeks, confirms that the baby’s organs have formed normally and that there are no clear signs of congenital health problems“Ultrasounds Exams,” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/ultrasound-exams. In addition to examining blood flow patterns and measuring amniotic fluid, this ultrasound checks the position of the placenta because a placenta that partially or completely covers the cervix needs to be closely monitored.
2. Bring a Support Person
Since ultrasounds will likely remind you of previous trauma, it will be helpful to have a support person with you“20-Week Ultrasound: Everything You Want to Know,” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/20-week-ultrasound#what-it-i. Maybe that’s your partner, a family member, a friend, or a doula if you plan to hire one. Prior to your ultrasound appointment, talk with this person about how they can best support you. Do you need them to advocate for you if you are too emotional to speak? Or do you want someone to hold your hand while the scan is occurring or comfort you if there is bad news?
When it comes to imaging, another important thing to do before you arrive at the provider’s office is to inquire about their guest policy. Unfortunately, because of the ongoing pandemic, many healthcare practices are denying visitors access to appointments, including ultrasounds. If this is the case, explain why you need a support person to be there with you and request permission. Remember, the trauma you experienced during previous scans is real, and there is the potential that your upcoming ultrasound will bring those feelings to the surface.
3. Practice Advocating for Yourself
When you are in the ultrasound room, it’s perfectly understandable if you are nothing but a ball of nerves. It may be difficult to communicate effectively, so practice advocating for yourself before your appointment. You can also recruit your support person to help you with this task. Either way, it’s important you educate yourself and rehearse what you’re going to say prior to your visit.
In an ideal world, the medical team member conducting your ultrasound would read your medical history before the scan. But after loss, it’s best not to assume that’s true. At the beginning of your appointment, immediately after the introductions, make your history known. Tell the staff member you’ve experienced pregnancy loss and when it happened. Explain that ultrasounds give you anxiety or fear — or whatever emotions you are feeling. Ask for what you need. Perhaps that sounds like, “Can you please give me a moment to take a few deep breaths before we start?” or “Will you please let me hear the heartbeat first?” Your questions and needs will vary, depending on how far along you are and whether your pregnancy is low, moderate, or high risk.
4. Seek Out Positive Stories
If you belong to a support group, talk to your fellow group members about ultrasounds during pregnancy after loss. Ask to hear their stories. Learn from other parents’ experiences and let their accounts give you hope and belief.
You can also search online for pregnancy after loss stories, including written essays and videos. Oftentimes, reading and watching stories from strangers broadens your view, serving as a powerful reminder that you’re not alone in your feelings.
- Join an online Pregnancy After Loss Support group
- 6 Coping Skills for Managing Stress During Your Pregnancy After a Loss
- The Ultrasound during Pregnancy After Loss
- What You Need to Know About Second Trimester Testing and Screening
- Managing Anxiety During the Anatomy Scan of Your Pregnancy After Loss
|↑1||“Pregnancy After a Miscarriage,” Tommy’s, https://www.tommys.org/baby-loss-support/miscarriage-information-and-support/pregnancy-after-miscarriage|
|↑2||“Pregnancy After Miscarriage,” Miscarriage Association, https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/your-feelings/pregnancyaftermiscarriage/|
|↑3||“Ultrasounds Exams,” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/ultrasound-exams|
|↑4||“20-Week Ultrasound: Everything You Want to Know,” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/20-week-ultrasound#what-it-i|