Blog Headlines: 

What is a fetal medicine scan?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017  |  Admin

From eggo to preggo #5

#5 What is a fetal medicine scan?


So, when we fell pregnant we knew it was going to be different second time round. I was considered a mild risk last time as I have thyroid disease, and this was monitored throughout my pregnancy with Elijah. This time we had, a more aggressive thyroid problem, the fact I had haemorrhaged and needed a blood transfusion after delivering and Elijah’s Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), Tetralogy of Fallot. We were now upgraded to a status of high risk.

After the first 12-week scan, all looked well, but in terms of checking for heart issues it really is early to tell. I was booked in for a fetal medicine scan at 17 weeks. Your case will be discussed by the fetal medicine department and they will bring you in at a certain point in your pregnancy. At 17 weeks, the doctor could clearly see the heart and if there were any developmental issues. This was also done at this point, as if there was something terminally wrong we could have chosen to terminate the pregnancy if we wanted to. The scan would be performed not by a sonographer but by a fetal medicine doctor. I was relieved they were taking precautions and doing thorough checks but I was petrified he would find something. We had a 2.5% chance of this baby having a CHD, or the same condition Elijah has. I was told that basically this scan is a bit like your 20-week anomaly scan but the doctor is trained to look very closely and identify any issues. After this scan, a plan would then be discussed going forward with the rest of the pregnancy.


Now, I was slightly anxious when we arrived, mainly as we were taken into a different room, and we had two midwives on standby. We discussed what had happened with Elijah, and he kindly listed to all my concerns. I had written for the amazing charity Tiny Tickers before and they have launched a brilliant, ‘Think 20 campaign’. Basically, they have designed a leaflet that you can get from their website to take with you to your 20- week scan. It is to give to the sonographer and it key check points for them to tick off when they are checking the heart. The charity regularly train sonographers to look for CHD’s in uturo. Although this wasn’t my 20- week scan, the baby’s heart was being checked and I took my, ‘Think 20 pack’ with me. The Doctor had heard of the charity and was happy to include the answers to the questions within his report. I was scanned from every which position I could get into, and the heart was thoroughly checked, more than once. So far everything looks normal.


When we heard those words, ‘normal’, I had a flashback to all of the scans and midwife checks I had with Elijah. Nothing was picked up until after birth, and I was worried this would be the same. Although last time someone was not actively looking I still do not think I will be relieved until after the birth. Once a CHD mum, always a CHD mum. The fetal medicine doctor signed us off, no further action required and we would be returning back in three weeks for our official 20 -week scan. I was slightly dumbfounded that so far things seemed to be going our way for once.

The 20 -week scan was a very similar to the one we had only a few weeks before, except the baby was not playing ball. We do have to return in a couple of weeks so they can get a picture of the spine on file. But again, everything including the heart were looked at again and all is well. So much so, the consultants have the precautions in place for when I give birth to avoid me bleeding heavily again. They are happy for me and the GP to monitor my thyroid so we have been discharged from clinic! We are in fact now flying solo now other than the midwife checks.

Having so many checks and appointment is good as I get to see the baby a lot, and my mind is put slightly at ease. Now, we are pretty much on our own I am slightly apprehensive but then I will feel a slight nudge from within, and feel a lot better. Like the baby knows I am worried and is trying to reassure me from in there! I would like to tell you that if you are booked in for a fetal medicine scan, or extra checks or that you are a high- risk pregnancy not to worry. But, it won’t do any good, and you will. Just take a deep breath before you go in and make sure all of your questions and concerns are answered. Do not take no for an answer, do not worry if you feel like you are inconveniencing the doctors, or taking up their time. This is your baby, your care, push for what you want and do what your gut tells you. That’s the one thing I have learnt after two pregnancies, and Elijah’s surgery etc., your gut does tend to be right. 

It can be a pain to spend so much time in hospital and with so many women being seen, things rarely run to schedule. Take a book, lots of snacks and things to keep your mind occupied. Sometimes the realisation of seeing a sea of bumps in varying stages of pregnancy can be quite overwhelming. Especially when you are worried about the outcome of your appointment. I cannot promise it will all be okay, but I can say in my experience the ante natal support I have received has been phenomenal. They have listed to my concerns, accommodated my requests and tried to reassure me as best they can. However, until this one is in my arms I think I will always be slightly worried. Then when they do arrive we have a whole new heap of concerns to worry about!