My 20 week mark was a bit of an adventure.
The night before I hit 20 weeks, I listened to Katelyn's heartbeat with my home doppler for the first time in about a week. I noticed it sounded like her heart was periodically skipping a beat. I thought it was because she was moving around so much and maybe I was hearing it wrong.
The next morning, I listened again, and she was definitely skipping beats. Other times it seemed the beats were too close together or her heart rate got a little bit faster then slower.
I read online that heart arrhythmias happen to a small percentage of babies, and rarely indicates a serious problem, but I still felt a bit nervous. I did what Dr. M always told me to do if there were any changes or I felt concerned, I called his office.
A couple hours later, his assistant returned my call. Dr. M was out of the office that day. She tried to tell me I’m not really hearing a missing heartbeat, that my machine is just malfunctioning. (Well, I’m sorry, but I have the exact same machine you use.) She said that maybe I am just hearing my own heartbeat, or that I’m just not hearing it right. (I’m not an idiot. I’ve been listening to my baby’s heartbeat for almost 3 months now. I know when it’s different. It’s one thing to tell me an irregular heartbeat is not a problem; I was expecting to hear that. But don’t try to dismiss what I know I am hearing.)
Then she says they can’t see me until next Friday. So I ask her, “Just *assume* my baby’s heartbeat is irregular, is that something to be concerned about?” and she says it is, because it can indicate a problem. So why not believe me then and check it out sooner??? Honestly, I expected them to call and say don’t worry about it. I did not expect them to not believe me. Ryan is the last person in the world to overreact about something or make a big deal and the minute he heard Katelyn's heartbeat he said, “That’s not right”. He still wasn’t super concerned, but even he knew right away it was different.
She said she'd try to find an earlier appointment for me and would call me back. I cried for about an hour. It's an awful feeling to believe something might be wrong, but have no one believe you.
Luckily, Dr. M called me back instead of his assistant. I didn't hear the call, so he left me a voicemail. He said that abnormal heartbeats usually appear around mid-20 weeks of your pregnancy, and since I’m only 20 weeks, that’s why they were thinking it might be the machine. But he said he trusts what I hear, so if I am feeling really worried about it, he wanted me to go to Labor and Delivery and have them check it out since he was out of the office on family business. Otherwise, I should call Monday morning and they’ll get me in Monday or Tuesday. It was just nice to hear someone validate what I *knew* I was hearing (and Ryan heard, and my mom heard - via a phone call…).
I did not go to L&D. Instead, I did some research. I saw a few explanations regarding why Katelyn's heartbeat would be irregular. One was dehydration and another was caffeine. I drank a caffeinated soda the day before because I was having one of my migraines. Although I had done that before without any ill effects, I still I wondered about it. Just in case, I began drinking a ton of water.
I also found an interesting study... it linked cocoa butter to fetal heart arrhythmias. While there was some debate on the topic, there were conclusive findings that the use of this product caused some babies to have an irregular heartbeat, most likely due to the absorption of caffeine through the skin. Another group of doctors found that simply having the cocoa butter product on your skin can cause false doppler readings, making the heartbeat appear to be irregular. All very interesting.
After my ultrasound the previous Thursday (where Katelyn's heartbeat was regular and normal), I began using cocoa butter all over my mid-section. I had been using it for a week when I listened to her heartbeat again and found it irregular. I am very sensitive to caffeine. Could it be that my little girl is the same way?
I immediately washed the cocoa butter off my skin and continued flushing my system with water. Within 12 hours, her heartbeat sounded a bit better. 24 hours later, there were no more skipped heartbeats, but it still wasn't quite normal. As of tonight, she seems to be back on schedule.
I know that this incident could have been caused by anything. It could have been a fluke or maybe the nurse was right and my machine was acting up. As much as I hate to think something I was doing was causing the arrhythmia, I still can't help wondering if the caffeine had something to do with it. Regardless, I am relieved that she seems to be doing better. And the cocoa butter is put away for good.
Somewhere in the midst of all this chaos, Ryan snapped a 20 week pic. I know I fought the idea of doing regular 'belly pics' at first, but I have to admit, I am loving watching this belly grow each month.
And a few new things about pregnancy... My body feels like an old woman's if I get up after sitting too long, it's hard to stand on my right leg because of a weird tendon that is constantly feels 'pulled', Katelyn is doing less popcorn movements and more kicks, my feet swelled up for the first time, I am tired but have a feeling I will never sleep through the night again, and I am loving it all.