Many parents approach their routine 18 to 20 week ultrasound appointment with eager anticipation, especially as they will be able to see their unborn baby. However for a few parents, this initial excitement can quickly turn to anxiety and apprehension if the ultrasound indicates that there may be a problem with the pregnancy or their baby. In many cases, the finding is just a minor 'variation of normal', having no effect on the health of the baby and/or something that is expected to eventually resolve on its own without treatments. However, the suggestion that a problem MAY exist leaves most parents feeling helpless and concerned for the remainder of the pregnancy, particularly as the problem is unlikely to be treated (or investigated further to confirm it exists) until after the baby is born.
Unexpected ultrasound findings have been shown to negatively affect how parents feel about the pregnancy and their unborn baby. Concerns about a possible problem usually interfere with the bonding process and bring up questions like - "Is too much knowledge of any help and is it worth the stress and worry?" Depending on the type of problem being questioned, caregivers will often recommend more ultrasounds and perhaps medical interventions and treatments (that may end up being unnecessary) either during the pregnancy or for the baby after the birth.
The other side of this coin is that ultrasounds cannot detect everything and some problems can be missed. It is thought that 70 - 80% of severe physical abnormalities are picked up and about 40 to 50% of genetic disorders. Therefore, an ultrasound may indicate that all is well, but after the baby is born an abnormality is diagnosed. This can make some parents feel resentful because they were 'lulled into a false sense of security'. It may also make caregivers feel uneasy, because they did not pick up the problem sooner.