What to Expect: 20 Weeks
Look at you! You've made it half way through this journey! This is an exciting time because your belly has most likely popped out by now making you look visibly pregnant (i.e.: people can stop wondering if you're just a little pudgy). It also means that the risk of complications goes down as you've been able to sustain a healthy pregnancy for 5 months. The second trimester is filled with a series of tests so buckle up! The 20th week, specifically, has tons of tests that you need to be aware of and prepare for. I also want you to know the what and why of the tests/screenings.
At this point in your pregnancy, your medical provider will want to see your baby which is exciting for you, too! You get to see your baby, hear their heartbeat, and learn about their anatomy! Yes, this means find out whether you're expecting a little bit or a little girl. If you're wanting to keep the gender of your baby a secret, you will want to share this with your tech because they might just blurt it out. I would remind them a time or two if it's really important to you.
During this particular scan, you will be evaluating your child's face, body, brain, spinal development, heart, and their limbs. You will also get a report on your placenta's health, a check-in on your uterus, and a measure of your amniotic fluid. Your providers are looking for your baby to be growing and developing as expected based on an average. The test can take 30-45 minutes if baby cooperates, you're well hydrated, and baby is in a good position. If baby isn't in a great position, it may take a bit longer.
A few things to keep in mind for the anatomy scan:
- Try not to read your tech's face during the actual scan. They are trained to not show any emotion or reactions. It is your providers job to read and deliver sensitive information.
- These 'expected growth charts' are based on an average. If you and your partner are not average humans, why on Earth would your baby be an average baby? Just think about it. To expect two very small individuals to have a baby the grows as expected is good, but is it realistic? I would expect that child to fall a bit below the expected growth average since both parents are small. Same with larger individuals.
- The accuracy of ultrasounds are questionable. We can't really see inside of your belly so this means there is room for error. Keep this in mind.
- Be sure that the birthing parent is well hydrated for the scan. You can get a better look with the ultrasound if you're well hydrated.
Another thing your provider will offer is a series of screenings and diagnostic. A screening will tell you the likelihood (what are the chances?) of your baby having a specific condition. A diagnostic test will tell you a definitive yes or no. Generally, you start with a screening and if that brings back questionable results, you will move to a more invasive or more sensitive diagnostic test.
- Quad Screen (screening): This is a blood test that screens for neural tube defects, Down syndrome, and other genetic disorders.
- Genetic Carrier Screening (screening): This test for several genetic conditions that you may be a carrier for and potentially might pass down to your baby. Ask your doctor if these test would be appropriate for you.
- Amniocentesis (diagnostic tool): This test takes amniotic fluid to test for genetic markers.
- Chorionic Villus Sampling (diagnostic tool): This is similar to the Amniocentesis, but tests tissue from your placenta.
These tools are not that accurate which is unfortunate because it's information that creates high anxiety in many people. It is 100% up to you whether or not you pursue these screenings and tests. You have the right to deny them altogether if you feel strongly.
My best suggestion for this decision is to consider how you feel now and how you might feel in the future. You should explore all your questions including if you deny it now can you change your mind? If you say yes and receive a result you weren't expecting, what will you do? What are you options for each possible outcome? You should inquire about costs and the actual procedure if it's more than a simple blood tests. Some of the procedures are quite invasive and may be enough to make you think twice.
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