We had the appointment this morning to have the fetal echocardiogram performed on our baby. As discussed in yesterday’s post, there were concerns raised from our anatomy ultrasound (at 18 weeks) that our baby was experiencing episodes of bradycardia, or a lower than normal heart rate.
By the time we went today, my nerves were really frazzled. The more the reality of the potential situation kept sinking in, the more scared I became. Walking into the echo lab today, I wondered if the outcome would change the course of our lives in a major way. I was afraid of the news we might receive.
Altogether, the appointment was two hours. A sonographer did the full scan/echo, which was about 30-40 minutes. Then we waited a good 40 minutes for the cardiologist to become available to take a look himself and meet with us. He had been called into a surgery to take some images, so we were at the mercy of his schedule. Still, I didn’t mind waiting for him because I figured waiting minutes was better than having to wait days. I was just happy to know that we were going to have answers today.
The sonographer who performed the echo was really friendly. And although she’s not supposed to give patients results, she ended up making several comments throughout the scan that put us more at ease. In fact, just a few minutes into it, after taking a few snippets of audio of the baby’s heart (both of which revealed heart rates in normal ranges—150s), she said, “A lot of times things will be detected during the scans in the OB’s office, and by the time the patients get here for us to take a look, it turns out to be nothing.” At another point, she said, “This baby just wanted to show you who is going to be running the house in a few months by causing a big commotion now, before it’s even born.” She wasn’t really telling us that things were going to be fine, but at the same time… she was telling us that things were going to be fine. I kept thinking, Why on earth would she say things like this to someone if there was something wrong with her baby? And come on: she wouldn’t.
Since the sonographer definitely put us more at ease, it made the 40-minute wait for the cardiologist a lot more bearable. Otherwise, it may have been somewhat excruciating. But finally, he came in.
He did his own scan—an abbreviated version—to get his own look at the baby’s heart. While he was doing that, he talked to us quite a bit. I can’t really explain what he said because I didn’t even understand half of it, but the gist was this: The baby was not actually having bradycardia, but does have a very minor arrhythmia that is not at all uncommon in unborn babies. Most of the time, these arrhythmias are not ever detected because the sonographer has to be looking at the heart and its rate at exactly the right time.
For instance, the entire time the sonographer was doing the scan—30-40 minutes—she never saw anything abnormal. But during the 5-10 minutes the cardiologist was looking, he once said to the sonographer, “Ah! Right there! Did you see that right there?” Apparently the baby’s heart appeared to do a momentary “pause.” And I’m talking a split second here, because I was watching the whole time and didn’t notice anything. It’s not as if our baby’s heart actually stopped beating.
The way the cardiologist explained it (sort of) is that while the baby’s heart is still developing, it has the tendency to experience arrhythmia. He said that the “pause” was not actually a pause at all, but actually an indication of an extra beat. Something about the atrium initiating a beat but the ventricle does not follow. So if you are viewing the heart beat pattern or timing it at that moment, you might see beat-pause-beat instead of what is really happening—beat-half beat-beat. So the baby’s heart beat can appear to be slow, when in reality it’s not. Anyway, that’s the best way I can explain it based on what he said.
The bottom line is this: According to the cardiologist, our baby has a healthy heart. He said the anatomy of it is fine, and that there is nothing for us to worry about. In fact, he didn’t think that the “problem” even warrants a follow up. If my OB happens to notice something else in any of my appointments, I can go back for another look, but otherwise, we’re good. He said he expects that the arrhythmia will resolve on its own, either sometime during my pregnancy, or within days—or at most a few weeks—after he or she is born.
Needless to say, we are extremely relieved. It was like a huge weight was lifted off of our shoulders. We thank everyone for all of the positive thoughts and prayers sent our way, and are so glad that we are a couple of the people who get to walk out of the hospital with that kind of news.
What really happened here is that we were victims of the advances in our technology. I mean, seriously. Just a handful of years ago, we would have never even been aware of this. While medical technology is most certainly a blessing, it can also be a curse, can’t it? Making people worry over nothing? At the end of the day, all we are is thankful, but it’s interesting to think about. The cardiologist told us that it wasn’t that long ago that all OB sonographers looked for was four chambers of the heart. If the heart had four chambers, it was deemed healthy. But now, they look for a lot more, and as a result, there are a lot more referrals to pediatric cardiologists—some of them completely warranted, and some of them false alarms.
I type all of this out in such detail in the hope that if someone else gets news that her baby showed signs of bradycardia following her anatomy scan at 18 weeks or at any other point in the second trimester, she might find this post when she inevitably googles it. I admit to googling a little bit last night, but I couldn’t find ANYTHING that seemed relevant to me. I couldn’t believe there was not one message board post out there with someone in this same situation. All I wanted was to find an example of someone who had been through this only to have things turn out fine. Hopefully I can be that example for somebody else now.
Again, thank you for all of the thoughts and prayers. So many of you guys have found ways to lift me up with your words in times when I’ve needed it these last five years. I hope you know how much I appreciate it.
AboutI'm Heather. I just turned 30. I'm happily married, and mommy to the most beautiful little girl in the world (what, you're saying I could be biased?). Determined DIYer and homeowner. Sarcastic. A perfectionist. A bleeding-heart liberal. Frugal. Loves a little dog way more than many humans. Loves food, hates exercise (it's an ongoing battle). A loyal football fan. I love to laugh. Value family and friends above all else. Vie to be a world traveler.
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