Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Answers for Susana

Susana left some questions on my blog and I thought I would answer them here.

First she asked whether we were planning to learn the gender of this baby.

Yes, we are. A few months ago, I went to my husband with my findings that ultrasounds are unproven to have no effect on the developing fetus. It appears that more conservative parents and doctors decide that as few as possible are best in pregnancy so serial ultrasounds (those performed frequently without good cause) are to be avoided. With Willem's pregnancy, I had two ultrasounds performed: a transvaginal to check gestational age and viability at 9 weeks and the anatomy check (aka find out your baby's gender) at 20 weeks. I have since learned that ultrasounds in a normal low-risk pregnancy are not necessary, but then again if I had thought carefully about it then I would have told you the same thing. But I'm older, wiser and more experienced now.

When I told my husband about this, he agreed that ultrasounds are not necessary but he also stated that they aren't so dangerous that they need to be avoided all together. I was prepared, if he agreed, to refuse all ultrasounds for this pregnancy but he felt strongly about the 20 week anatomy check. I think he wants it more for the reasons that he finding biology fascinating (he is a biologist afterall) and he loved the experience of seeing Willem in utero--so he would like that opportunity again. Also, he's a cautious, worried kind of guy when it comes to pregnancy and birth. He fears for the unlikely what ifs. So he wants to make sure that all parts are there and accounted for at least once during the pregnancy. Knowing to him is comfort, even though finding out about potential problems would not change our decisions to birth and rear a baby.

And there's the issue of gender. I could go without knowing the gender of this baby, but I admit that there is a part of me that really likes the convenience of knowing and being able to prepare all the stuff that goes along with a baby of a certain gender. It is also helpful to know because it curbs the spending of overzealous relatives (as we learned when we were pregnant with Willem). So a part of me wanted to know because I don't look forward to the shopping with a newborn and a toddler, I'd rather have it done before the baby arrives. Peter, my husband, also wanted to know for those reasons too. Together, we made the decision that both of us could support. One ultrasound, at 20 weeks, and we'll find out the gender.

The other question that Susana asked was why I felt it was so important to pin down the gestational age/due date for this pregnancy.

First, my reasons for wanting to know have little to do with the due date. I hate the term due date because it implies there is a deadline for a baby's birth and I disagree that a baby has to come before a certain time. I strongly trust in the need for a baby to come when he/she is ready and to wait patiently for labor to begin on its own. But my concern for this pregnancy is that possibly I conceived a month before I thought (which might explain the clearly positive line that appeared immediately on the home pregnancy test), and being off in my dates by a month was too big of a window for me. For my comfort, I needed to know at least the month the baby was conceived.

Birth after a normal gestation can occur anywhere between 37 weeks to 43 weeks, with some women birthing after that. The longest human pregnancy I've heard of is 52 weeks! Being off by a month (conceiving in August instead of September) could make this baby due as soon as the beginning of April. And if I went into labor in the beginning of April with a baby conceived in September, that baby would be 33 weeks in gestational age-- a premature baby. So based on that, I would like to know that when I do go into labor that its an appropriate and healthy time for that baby to be born, and especially not too early where medical support would be necessary.

However, I have since obtained enough evidence that this baby was conceived in September so I am no longer concerned about being off of a month or more. If I had conceived in August that means I had a period that tricked me into thinking that I wasn't pregnant when I was. I felt that my suspicion would be validated if in September I had period like bleeding, but since I haven't and an official period has been missed, I'm no longer concerned about conceiving earlier than my body was indicating. And I didn't need an ultrasound to prove it, thereby being able to avoid the viability ultrasound.

At this point, I am able to trust that this baby is viable and this pregnancy will continue normally until I get some indication that it won't. But having an ultrasound telling me that my 6 weeker or 9 weeker is showing all normal development is not necessary for me. An ultrasound can only clue me in on whether I will miscarry soon or not. If I was going to miscarry, the knowledge obtained by an ultrasound wouldn't provide me much comfort. It would basically draw out the process while I waited for the spontaneous abortion to occur since I would refuse any offers for an assisted miscarriage. I feel that an early ultrasound would not give me any more pertinent information that my body isn't already capable of giving me. I also am looking forward to keeping all hands, devices and instruments out of my vagina over the course of this pregnancy. I feel the transvaginal ultrasound is not only necessary, but invasive. I am aiming to protect my bodily integrity this pregnancy by refusing such examinations.

So yes, Susana, those are my responses to your question. I respect your desire to understand and I know that you are not being disrespectful in asking.

1 comment:

Brightonwoman said...

At the 20wk ultrasound they also look at the heart, stomach, kidneys, etc. They can identify things such as a hole in the heart or missing organs at this stage. I *like* learning the gender of my baby (although my mama instinct has always been right already) but I actually do it *because* of the other checks. I also find it comforting to have them. If they found a problem, I might make different choices about where/with whom to birth for example.