Know the Emotions Your Patients May be Feeling During Their First Ultrasound and How to Respondby Elizabeth MacDonald
Tears of joy, tears of anxiety, or tears of sadness, new parents will all react to their first ultrasound in different ways. As the professional, it is your responsibility to stay connected and calm throughout each appointment.
Seeing a heartbeat. Seeing multiple heartbeats. Not seeing a heartbeat at all. Revealing a gender. Parents fighting the urge to discover the gender. Parents learning devastating news. Parents counting ten fingers and toes. There is no denying that a pregnancy ultrasound will change a couple’s life, and while some parents may check it off as just another day of pregnancy, seeing a healthy little baby swimming around should spark a light of life-changing emotions in them.
The miracle of life is one our society tends to shrug off and sometimes the effects can cause couples to become unaware of how they truly feel towards seeing this tiny human being on a screen. Technology is a wonderful (and scary) tool. They learn so much in a matter of moments, whether it is a healthy or unhealthy pregnancy, if their baby is growing well, whether vaginal labor will be a safe option, if the gender she dreamt of is what exists, and if everything is okay with the mother. Along with this education comes the anxiety and fears before the truth is learned. And what’s worse is that after this brief moment of time, the heart and mind will create a new laundry list of emotions based off of what was discovered during the ultrasound.
You already know that there are no right or wrong emotions for your clients to feel: sadness to be pregnant, panic to be pregnant with multiples, triumph to have a healthy baby past a certain date, pride that they have created this being, or even confusion on whether to keep or adopt. Emotions are a very personal thing, and you want your clients to know that it is a safe place to let the tears fall.
How to Handle the Emotions
You can cheer if mom is cheering. You can laugh if mom is laughing. You can share insightful stories or jokes. If the mood is light, it will be easy to continue the happiness. However, if the mood is more anxiety-driven, you may find it beneficial to find the most positive or beautiful image on your screen and keep the focus there. You can turn the screen to complete any measurements or note anything of worry before explaining that their doctor will be coming in shortly.
Make Sure Mom is Supported
Typically, moms are not alone during their first ultrasound. You may ask a couple if both will be staying in the room; this gives the mom a chance to signal you in any way if she would like her partner to leave.
If a supportive partner is present, allow the appointment to be centered around them, answering their questions and easing their minds.
If a mother is alone, she may need a deeper connection with you as she learns more about her pregnancy. A squeeze of her hand, a tissue as she cries, a story or a simple hug will let her know she is not truly alone.
Stop Talking: Answer Questions, but Never Overstep
While couples do want to know EVERYTHING from this one appointment, it is not your job to share everything. Knowing when to stop talking and let emotions speak for themselves is a skill that comes with experience and time. Often, it is better to let the couple guide the conversation, and then figure out what type of connection they are looking for.
Always Offer Pictures and a Heartbeat (if there is one)
This is par for the course at a first ultrasound, but in some situations it is overlooked. If a couple learns they are miscarrying, or that there is cause for concern, worry and panic may set in before asking for pictures. If there is a heartbeat, always offer to record it. Even if the baby has passed away or did not completely develop, offer pictures. This moment of heartache will someday be replaced with a wish or yearning to have a tangible memory.