My experience of the week 20 anomaly scan
The anomaly scan, also called the 20 week scan or mid-pregnancy scan, is used to detect pregnancy irregularities significant in diagnosis of any of the following conditions:
- Open spina bifida
- Cleft lip
- Diaphragmatic hernia
- Serious cardiac abnormalities
- Bilateral renal agenesis
- Lethal skeletal dysplasia
- Edwards’ syndrome, or T18
- Patau’s syndrome, or T13
In most instances no serious issue will be found during the scan and many parents-to be will come away knowing that all is progressing nicely and, perhaps, having found out the sex of their baby.
Yet some are not so lucky. For them, the 20 week anomaly scan brings a great deal of anxiety and distress. Here’s one father’s story.
The day of the scan
My wife and I had tried not to talk too much about the scan in advance – we understood too well its potential implications. We did though decide that we would definitely like to know the sex of our baby, although after the initial ultrasound we already felt pretty confident we were having a boy.
It didn’t get off to the best start.
We’d carefully planned to make sure we would get to the appointment on time. But a combination of a lengthy queue in the car park and then a battle with an angry parking ticket machine, which spat my coins out with as much gusto as a toddler refusing its broccoli, meant my wife had to go in ahead of me.
By the time I arrived at the ultrasound department Julia was already in the consulting room and I, breathing heavily and clammy with sweat from having dashed at full pelt from the car park, was too rushed to be the calm and steadying presence I’d planned to be.
The good news was that I arrived just at the point the sonographer started taking measurements and making notes as she peered at the monitor.
However, both my wife and I quickly sensed that something was not quite right and it hardly helped that, by now, Julia was practically begging to be let out to use the loo – she had been desperate for a wee in the car on way over but, because of the parking issues, had not had time to go.
Anyhow, when she got back the sonographer again brought baby up on the screen and then explained that she had taken a range of measurements, including skull circumference, abdomen circumference, thigh bone length. She checked the heart and some other important things to do with the kidneys and bladder.
It was soon explained to us, sensitively I must add, that our little boy, yes it was definitely a boy, had four “soft markers”, or anatomical variants, identified on the scan – one for talipes (clubfoot), one for echogenic focus in the heart, one for choroid plexus cysts on the brain and one for Renal Pelvis Dilation (excess fluid in the kidneys).
I’m afraid to say that at this point I very much failed in my manly obligation to keep emotionally strong. I began to cry while my wife just looked numb with shock. Four! Four soft markers!
The sonographer gave us as much information as she could, or perhaps it was as much information as she felt we could take, and she told us we had plenty of time to decide what to do next. She said there were follow up tests which could be performed, she also said there were some risks. I guess we must have looked pretty shell shocked and she told us that, once we had let the news settle in a bit, we should speak to our midwife. Which we did.
Anyway, to cut out the months of worry we experienced and to focus on the parts that matter, we decided against an amniocentesis although we knew that our child had an increased risk of being born with Down’s Syndrome or another chromosomal abnormality. The risk of the tests hurting our unborn baby were too great for us because whichever way we looked at things, we knew we would love any child we had.
And it was the right decision! Oscar was born without any major problem and this only increased the miraculous feeling of his birth. He was though born with a kidney condition called Hydronephrosis and was soon prescribed antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.
To say we would were relieved would be an understatement. The experience of birth really bonded my wife and I, as did the way we supported each other through the months of worry and uncertainty following the anomaly scan.
Now, we are changed forever and our son has given us the gift not only of himself but of a more beautiful world to be living in.