Abnormal Fetal Ultrasound? Why You Shouldn’t Consult Dr. Google

Don’t do it, Moms-to-be!

internet search of fetal abnormalities

As much as you may be tempted, I have to caution you to not web-surf regarding your abnormal fetal ultrasound. Here’s why …


Because you surf the net for these details, you end up finding an entire spectrum of possibilities ranging from normal to severely abnormal fetal findings. And most of them may not apply to your circumstances at all. The result is usually the same. Your imagination runs away with you, and you start to worry that everything you’re reading applies to you and your baby. I always know a mom has been consulting Dr. Google when I get questions like “Is my baby’s bladder inside its body??” My response is usually the same–I reassure her with an “It sure is!” Then with a little smile, I advise “Quit looking up stuff on the internet!” Moms’ responses are usually the same, too. “I know, I know … I just can’t help myself!”

In this day and age of anything we want to know at our fingertips, it is nearly impossible to NOT research something that piques our curiosity. So, naturally, when you get your ultrasound results from your doctor, and he mentions you have a lot of amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) or your baby has cysts on its brain (choroid plexus cysts), you freak out a little (or a lot). It’s completely understandable! But these findings may VERY WELL not be a reason to panic!

If Your Doc Wants to Refer You

Sometimes, we sonographers (even the experienced ones) detect things we just can’t explain. This doesn’t mean something detrimental to your baby; it just means we can’t fully explain it. We know this is disconcerting to an expectant parent(s). Usually, if something requires the attention of a high-risk specialist (aka a perinatologist or MFM or Maternal Fetal Medicine), your doctor will tell you when he discusses your ultrasound results. In such a particular case, he/she will usually express that something noted on the examination stands out as abnormal (or possibly a normal variant–something that’s a little different but considered normal), and he would like a second opinion.

In my experience, if your provider feels it is not grossly worrisome, he/she will say so. Your doctor will then refer you to MFM so they can do a more extensive Level 2 ultrasound. The perinatologist should discuss this ultrasound with you, provide an opinion on the issue, and the severity of the problem. MFM will also let you know if they feel there really is no problem.

If Your Report is Normal

If you are not referred to a perinatologist, then it’s very likely that nothing worrisome enough was seen on your ultrasound. Your doctor will also let you know that your ultrasound was negative or unremarkable. At times, we can’t see something well because of Baby’s position or other factors. Usually, it’s something like Baby’s heart or spine. In these cases, your doc may want to look again to ensure a normal appearance. There are many minor findings that we may note on a regular sonogram which may not be alarming to your doctor. Mostly, they just require a follow-up later to see if the issue is resolved. They mostly turn out to be insignificant, especially if no other abnormalities are seen with your baby. In other words, they are likely not a big deal!

So don’t make yourself worry! Don’t ask Dr. Google, ask your doctor instead. Make a list of all your questions, and he/she will let you know if other tests are needed. I know it’s tempting, but this is only the beginning of all the things that drive us crazy as moms! Save your sanity for when your kid is a driving teenager!

As always, thanks for reading!

Please feel free to email with any questions or comments at

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Fetal Malformations – The Challenging Poker Face

Fetal malformations make up part of our job…

And it’s one we like least. Diagnosing major fetal malformations that are extremely rare. Most sonographers in general OB only find a few in a long year career unless she works in a high-risk facility like Maternal Fetal Medicine.

I can’t talk to the patient about what I am seeing, knowing the bomb will drop as she visits her doctor and he/she explains the ultrasound results. Even as I scan, I feel a vast array of emotions that I must hide. Many times the physician comes in to observe such a scan. But when this scenario is not the case, every result must come from her doctor. You can read more about why here.

Your doctor has built a relationship with you during your pregnancy, your physician is in charge of your care, and only your physician can fully explain the scope and nature of this abnormality. Furthermore, you will surely have 100 questions about how it will affect your pregnancy and the prognosis for your Baby. Only your doctor can answer all of these questions; the sonographer simply cannot.

The greatest challenge for any sonographer is to act like nothing is wrong. Many times, all I wanted to do was to put my arms around my patient and give her a big hug. Instead, I have to force a smile, hand her a few images, and tell her where to wait for her doctor.

She’s been on my mind all night…