Fetal Pericardial Effusion

I've learned a new medical term in the past week. It's one I certainly don't mind knowing, (since I do enjoy learning, and little tidbits here and there are good to store away...) but it's also one I hadn't expected to learn, and one I admittedly would have liked to learn under different circumstances.

Fetal Pericardial Effusion. It's actually a medical diagnosis, given to the sweet baby boy growing inside of me. Basically, it means that doctors have found that our baby has an (as yet) unspecified amount of extra fluid in the sac that surrounds his heart. You can learn more about it here if you like, but keep in mind this article is referring to adults with heart disease. There's no reason to get all worked up about all of the doom and gloom in these articles. Information about this condition in the womb is hard to find, and so far, we really don't have any specifics about our unique situation with our unique baby.

A little background...

This started about five weeks ago, when I had a routine fetal survey (ultrasound) at 21 weeks. The radiologist saw a "sliver of fluid" around Baby's heart that indicated there was more there than is normal. We asked the radiologist if finding this sort of thing is fairly common, and she gave us a pretty standard non-answer (love those). So, having no prior experience with this sort of medical condition, and given her "answer," we assume it probably isn't common. Outside of the womb, extra fluid around the heart is usually indicative of some sort of infection or heart anomaly, congenital or not, but we don't want to jump to any conclusions. I had a follow-up ultrasound this past Monday, and a second radiologist confirmed that the extra fluid is still present. She recommended a fetal echocardiogram, which my OB later concurred she'd like to have done in the next week or so.

So...I've been referred to a medical group that specializes in high-risk pregnancies. They are a team of perinatologists specially trained in dealing with complications of pregnancy, and can perform more specialized diagnostic procedures, like an echocardiogram (from what I understand, is done just like an ultrasound - using sonography - just with more specialized equipment). This team will likely follow me the remainder of my pregnancy, along with my OB. Again, we are not jumping to any conclusions about how serious/routine this is or is not - and we don't want you to, either. Our baby is growing, the structure and function of his heart are normal, and he isn't under any duress. You know how it is in the medical world - everyone is just trying to make sure they don't get sued. They want to catch every single imperfection just to make sure we can't come back and place blame. So, this could be nothing. We have to keep all of that in mind, and proceed as if it will resolve itself until we have information that tells us otherwise, or gives us a more specific understanding of a particular complication. We should know more after I have the appointment with the perinatologist and have the echocardiogram done. My appointment is scheduled for Wednesday the 27th at 12:15pm.

I have had minor complications with both of my previous pregnancies that did, over time, resolve themselves. In fact, I have joked with my OB before about whether or not I would ever have a "normal" pregnancy. This is not something that is causing us (or should cause you) an inordinate amount of concern, stress, or worry. Our family has weathered complicated pregnancies before, and I have a beautiful, healthy nephew born out of one such "high-risk" pregnancy (and his mommy is pregnant again, when doctors said she'd likely never be able to conceive at all!)

I do not know where this road will take us, but I can say with confidence that my God is an awesome God, and He has been preparing me for something like this over the past few weeks. As I've started my own blog, I've been reading quite a few others, many of which are written by mothers of babies with significant health issues. I've mentioned these blogs (and you can find links to them) here. Not only am I a little more educated going into this, but I'm at peace and confident that God is working out His perfect will in our lives, and in the life of our unborn baby.

So...pray for us, yes. Pray for our baby, absolutely. Pray for our doctors, and the outcome of our next appointment, and the echocardiogram. Please do not walk on eggshells around us or refrain from asking how I am feeling or how our baby is doing. We have faith that God will reveal everything in His perfect timing, and we trust that He is in complete control.

We'll keep you updated! Until then, some more beautiful ultrasound pictures of our handsome little man...

And the 3D...
It amazes me how much he has changed in just 4 weeks since the last picture!
And so precious...I love him so much already!

13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13


Ashley M said...

praying for the precious, nameless little boy in your womb. excited to see God glorifies in & through this!!

Anonymous said...

Wow!!!! Im going through the same thing. I just found out about the extra fluid around the heart and now need to se a specialist. I will definitely keep up family in my prayers. How did everything turnout with your son? Please email at tiffanysgray1@hotmail.com

heather said...

Hi Tiffany! Thanks for your e-mail. I can't believe how many people actually find this blog (I haven't managed to blog in a very long time, and really miss it!), and I really empathize with what you must be feeling right now. I remember doing endless internet searches (against my better judgment) trying to find more information about what was going on with our son.

I know how anxious you must be feeling, but want you to also know I believe in a God who loves us unconditionally, knows us intimately, and is absolutely in control of even the tiniest of details in our lives. I know it is hard to understand why this is happening, but know you can trust God and ask Him for peace throughout all of this.

I hope you get some answers soon about what is going on with your precious baby. For us, our son was healed of whatever was causing the pericardial effusion (we never found out what it was). I don't know if you read it, but I wrote about it here: http://barrmania.blogspot.com/2009/05/all-is-well.html

I know it doesn't turn out this way for everyone, and we are immensely grateful.

Take care!

:) heather <><

Melisa said...

Thank you for writing this. We found out at an ultrasound yesterday that our daughter has an increased amount of fluid around her heart. The doctor tried to ease my mind and tell me most of the time these correct themselves. But then I did the worst thing I could, I googled. I googled myself right into hysteria. We go back in three weeks. For now, I am adding her to everyone's prayer list and trusting God. That is really all I can do.

Christy said...

Jumping on the "just found out our baby may have his and googling everything" bandwagon. Thank you for your post and perspective and we are praying for a healthy baby!

Evann said...

Same thing happened to our baby. Found out at 19 weeks. We all did a lot of praying and by the grace of God by 29 weeks it had disappeared. These things sound scary but usually heal themselves!