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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Internet Pregnancy Advice–Dr. Google Doesn’t Know You

Internet Pregnancy Advice Isn’t Always So Reliable!

internet pregnancy advice

I know it’s such a difficult temptation to resist, but Dr. Google really isn’t the best doc to consult when you’re experiencing questionable symptoms–especially not when it comes to pregnancy. Practices across the country see it every week. Relying on Dr. Google for internet pregnancy advice only opens up Pandora’s box of fear and worry … and more questions.

We’ve probably all done it at one time or another. Isn’t it just so easy to click on a Symptoms Checker or post your question onto your pregnancy group’s community forum? Maybe someone else has experienced the same thing, it turned out to be nothing, and your fears can be put to rest? The problem with this sort of self-diagnosing is that no one else in the world is you–or your baby.

We would see this quite a bit in the practice where I worked. A patient is given ultrasound results by her doctor, she goes home to Google the information, and then calls back to the office in a panic over what she’s read. The internet is filled with more information than we need and more than applies to you in your pregnancy. And, unfortunately, some of it is completely inaccurate. You don’t want to cause yourself unnecessary worry!


What you’re getting in your internet searches is the whole spectrum of findings and worse-case scenarios. Every blog and medical site, no matter how credible you think they are, still cannot represent the thoughts, feelings, and advice of your personal physician.

Moreover, many expectant parents turn to online community forums for emotional support and advice. Though these forums can be a place to share experiences with other pregnant moms, their problems and results should never dictate how you react to your own symptoms. At the end of the day, twenty people experiencing pain or bleeding (for example) may yield seven potentially different outcomes. And because people gauge their symptoms differently, there’s no way for you to accurately compare theirs to your own. The last thing you want to do is to read something which convinces you not to call your doctor when you really should have.

You know, as humans, we can be a bit flawed in our thinking. We tend to convince ourselves of what we believe to be true, whether that information holds water or not. Don’t convince yourself a problem isn’t real; let your obstetrician’s staff ask the important questions and determine whether you need to be seen!

The Best Advice!

Your doctor (or other healthcare provider) makes the best resource for managing your pregnancy and any potential problems which may be associated. Only she/he holds your chart full of pertinent medical information about you and your baby. Your obstetrician can examine you and listen properly for your Baby’s heart tones or order an ultrasound exam, if needed. Only your doc can advise you on what the next step should be or determine if ordering further testing is warranted. Whatever your concern, discuss it with your obstetrician or other healthcare professional managing the care of you and Baby.

And in case you’re more concerned with bothering your doctor after hours, this is precisely the reason for on-call staff around the clock! Your physician is your best advocate. He would rather you ask him (or his qualified staff) than your friends or family.

internet pregnancy advice


If you begin to experience your symptoms early in the day, don’t wait to call until midnight! (To clarify, this doesn’t mean not to call because it’s midnight, just not to wait!)

Don’t wait to see if your problem will go away. They’ll want to know about it sooner than later! Also, you don’t want to put off treatment if you need it.

Remember this. Dr. Google cannot lay hands on you, examine you with his handy-dandy speculum, advise you, console you, or discuss test results. This is why you have an obstetrician. Moreover, Dr. Google didn’t attend so many years of medical school and surely won’t be the one to catch your precious bundle of joy on his or her birthday.

Direct all your concerns to one who will be!
That’s why she’s in the baby business!


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The Nuchal Translucency or NT Scan

What’s the NT Scan?

The NT or Nuchal Translucency scan is a first-trimester ultrasound screening test for chromosomal abnormalities which I performed for a couple of years. Sonographers require special certification in order to perform this examination. I will not get into any serious depth regarding the types of chromosomal problems relative to what’s included or excluded. I am not a doctor or geneticist! Ultimately, only your doctor can give you the most pertinent, accurate, and up-to-date information as well as answers to all your questions on the subject! I am literally only scratching the surface here from an ultrasound standpoint.

Email From a Reader with Questions

reader:  I just read about NT scans and how they can be a way to detect Down syndrome. My doctor never mentioned anything about this to me. Do you think it was done during my 12-Week dating ultrasound? Or is this something that you need to specifically request? I’m 29 and have no family history, so I’m not sure if that’s why it wasn’t offered. After my 12-Week ultrasound, she did offer other tests. But she said I wasn’t high risk, and we opted not to do them. Thank you for your time!

wwavb:  I can certainly chime in on this because I did the NT scan for a couple of years. So, I know a bit about them. Actually, you answered your own question! The tests that your doctor talked to you about may have included the NT scan, but you opted not to do them.

The NT scan is an attempt at a measurement of the nuchal area along with a finger stick. The nuchal area is a fold of skin behind Baby’s neck. But we cannot always obtain this measurement. It is probably one of the most tedious examinations I’ve done, and this measurement can only be taken one way. There are a number of variables which depend mostly on fetal position that dictate this. If we can’t obtain the measurement, we cannot perform the test.
NT measurement
If all the stars align, and we actually do obtain this measurement — yay! Success. The sonographer fills out a form which she sends to the lab along with your blood. The lab takes the measurement from the scan and some numerical values from your blood and personal history. All the values then plug into a formula.
The result determines your risk or chances for having a baby with certain chromosomal abnormalities – Down Syndrome is one. This result does not tell you whether your baby has these abnormalities or not, only your risk for having a baby with this problem. If it comes back elevated, you have to then decide whether you want to proceed with other tests like amniocentesis. An amnio can determine if your baby has a particular one of these abnormalities.
For your greatest clarity, you should ask your doctor at your next visit if the NT is something she would have offered. If you have a concern and would like to look into genetic testing, certainly discuss with your doctor what options she would recommend for you. She is your best educator!
Hope that helped!
Here’s to your happy and healthy pregnancies!
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Ultrasound at 11 Weeks Pregnant

What can you expect to see at 11 Weeks?

At 11 Weeks pregnant, take a look at what you should expect to see by ultrasound!


11 Weeks pregnant

11 Weeks pregnant


These images depict Baby B at 11 Weeks! Both babies are slightly bigger = about 4.3 cm now or almost two inches! The second trimester starts at 14 Weeks. So, the first trimester, thought of as the most crucial one for growth and development, is nearly over. Babies can be seen doing a lot of quick jerky movements at this point. They can be quite active and actually mimic little jumping beans! In the second image, you can see little legs quite distinctly.


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…

When a Sonogram is No Longer a Fun Event

Miscarriage: A Constant Fear

Most people cannot wait for the day of their sonogram.  They lose sleep in anxious excitement to see their baby, hear its heartbeat, and learn Baby’s gender. However, parents who have suffered a miscarriage or pregnancy loss lose sleep for reasons surrounding worry – the worry that history might repeat itself.

These patients do not enter my room with smiles or happy chatter. They are frightened and in need of some reassurance. Even though I cannot discuss the details of their examination results, I am quick to point out that first flutter of a heartbeat as soon as I detect it. I do my best to point out structures and organs to them and will discuss with them findings on their prior ultrasound. If patients have a need to talk about this, they will initiate the conversation. I will gladly explain all I know about the subject. Whatever I can do to make them feel they have a competent sonographer and thorough ultrasound examination is most important. Whatever the case, these patients need a caring and experienced sonographer.

A Message to All Who Have Suffered a Miscarriage

To all patients who can relate to this post, you are not alone! I know this is one of the most stressful times in your pregnancy, and the only thing that will make you relax is to hear from your doctor that all looks normal. Those experiences are some that stay with us for a lifetime. And they are life-changing. You may not understand now why your miscarriage happened. But maybe this experience will make you a more sensitive and caring support system for someone else who experiences a similar tragedy. To be a blessing for someone else is one of the most amazing gifts we can share with one another as humans…and as women.

Feel free to leave your comments if this was helpful.

Also, feel free to email me at with any questions you have!

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