How to Make It Through the 10-Day Wait In Between Ultrasounds

If you've been asked to come back in 10 days for an ultrasound to reassess measurements and see if the heartbeat appears, this guide can help.
Woman getting ultrasound

When you go in for your first ultrasound—typically between 7 to 8 weeks of pregnancy—the last thing you want to hear is that they cannot find a heartbeat. If you have heard these words, then you are familiar with the fear and anxiety that follow.

While your first reaction might be to think that you are experiencing a miscarriage, that is not always the case. In fact, in 15-20 percent of the time, a fetal heartbeat cannot be detected during an internal sonography within the first 6 weeks of pregnancy. 

Even if you believe that you’re farther along, your provider will likely have you come back in 10 days to reassess measurements and see if a heartbeat can be detected. The extra time can make the findings more clear, so your provider can determine what is happening. 

These 10 days are likely to be filled with intense anxiety and fear, not to mention the fact that waiting 10 days can feel like 10 years. You may find yourself thinking of all of the possibilities and fixating on the worse possible outcomes. 

Here are eight ways to cope with the 10-day wait in between ultrasound appointments:

Practice meditation

Practicing meditation can be a good tool as you await your upcoming ultrasound. Meditation involves being mindful, or aware of the present moment without judgment. Studies show that meditation can have profound effects in terms of reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. 

There are many different ways to meditate. If you are new to meditation, you can try a guided meditation recording or video. There are many free ones available on YouTube or by downloading specific apps. 

You can also try to practice on your own. The “leaves on a stream” meditation exercise is a good one for beginners.

To start, find a comfortable space that is free of distractions. Sit down with your back straight and visualize an image of yourself sitting on the bank of a stream. Take a few deep breaths. When thoughts come up, gently notice them without judgment. Then imagine placing the thought on a leaf and sending it down the stream and bring your attention back to your breath. Continue this pattern when more thoughts come up, which they inevitably will, and keep returning back to your breath.

It may feel strange to do this, but the more you practice, the better you will get at noticing thoughts and releasing them. Practicing this for a few minutes each day will help you improve your ability to manage distressing thoughts and feelings over time.

Take 10 deep breaths

Deep breathing is another effective activity for reducing anxiety. This is because deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you recover from the fight-or-flight response. If you find yourself feeling anxious about your upcoming ultrasound, take several rounds of deep breaths.

There are many different breathing activities that you can try. If you have one that you’ve used in the past, you could try that, or you could try 4-7-8 breathing. This involves taking a four second inhale, gently holding your breath for seven seconds, and then exhaling for eight seconds. Repeat this pattern for several more rounds. You should notice a calming effect rather quickly.

Use positive affirmations

Affirmations are another tool that you can use to manage your nerves about your upcoming ultrasound. Affirmations are brief statements that you repeat several times out loud or in your own head. They can help reduce stress and shift the way you are thinking about something.

There are many different affirmations that you can try. Some may work for you, while others may not. Try out different ones and see what resonates. You will want the affirmation to feel true to you. Avoid overly positive affirmations that feel fake.

Examples of affirmations that you can repeat as you wait for your ultrasound are:

  • “I trust that everything is okay until I am told otherwise.”
  • “I am strong and can do hard things.”
  • “Worry does not serve me. Worrying about what I cannot control does not stop it from happening.”
  • “I deserve peace.”

Carry a coping card

A coping card is a piece of paper that lists a few coping skills or affirmations to use when you are feeling overwhelmed. The benefit of a coping card is that you can pull it out at any point in time. Many people carry them in their pocketbooks or wallets. You can also create one on your phone. Pulling it out whenever you need a reminder of your coping strategies is key.

The simplest way to make a coping card is to take an index card and write three activities you can do to reduce anxiety, such as taking 10 deep breaths, watching a mindfulness video, and imagining yourself in a safe space. You can also list three people that you can call or text for support and one affirmation that resonates for you.

Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal

Journaling is an effective tool for reducing stress, anxiety, and rumination. It can help you express yourself and better regulate your emotions. When you feel stressed about your upcoming ultrasound, take out a pen and paper and write down your feelings. You can freely write or use a journal prompt to get you started. 

Here are some examples of journal prompts to get you started:

  • Write about a time that you faced a challenge and explain how you got through it.
  • Ask yourself, how can I cultivate a sense of peace during this difficult time?
  • Write about what gratitude means to you and what you are grateful for in your life right now.
  • Reflect on how your religious or spiritual beliefs impact how you see and feel about this situation.

Reach out for support

Waiting for the results of your next ultrasound can be very isolating. You may find yourself not wanting to talk about it, but isolation often makes you feel worse. It can help to identify a few trusted people that you feel comfortable speaking with. This could be your partner, a family member or friend, or even a therapist.

If you are having a hard time coping, therapy offers a safe space to share your feelings and receive support. A good therapist can offer empathy and coping skills to help you feel better. Don’t hesitate to seek out a therapist who has experience and training in maternal mental health to support you.

Avoid doomscrolling 

When you’re feeling anxious and dealing with uncertainty, there can be a temptation to turn to the internet for answers. You may find yourself searching the internet endlessly, a behavior called doomscrolling. The problem with this is that it usually makes you feel worse. You’re likely to hear horror stories and develop new fears that you hadn’t even thought about. 

Try your best to resist the urge to endlessly scroll the internet and social media. Instead, ask one or two trusted sources, like your provider, for answers to your questions.  

Let your emotions pass

Finally, it’s important to remember that our emotions are always changing. When you’re experiencing an intense emotion, like fear, it’s hard to remember that there was ever a time that you didn’t feel that way. But the reality is that the fear will pass and a new emotion will take its place. Remind yourself that your emotions ebb and flow and that you can ride the waves of their intensity without getting swept away.

Waiting for the results of your next ultrasound is understandably very anxiety-provoking. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed with fear and worry. While it may be impossible to rid yourself of the fear completely, it can help to take steps to manage your thoughts and feelings about the situation. The strategies listed above, like journaling and reaching out for support, can help you cope with the 10-day wait.

Author

  • Dr. Emily Guarnotta

    Dr. Emily Guarnotta is a licensed psychologist and perinatal mental health specialist (PMH-C). She has works with clients experiencing a range of maternal mental health concerns, including infertility, postpartum depression and anxiety, and miscarriage. She is also the co-founder of Phoenix Health, an online practice that specializes in therapy for maternal mental health conditions. When she's not working, you can find her enjoying time with her family, traveling, and staying active.

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