“Choroid plexus cysts.”
A million and one questions went through my mind when my OBGYN casually mentioned this three-word term to me after my 16-week medical appointment, which had included an ultrasound. While my doctor rattled on for a few more minutes about my good blood pressure and the baby’s steady heartbeat, I was barely listening. I knew nothing good comes from the word “cyst.”
At best you ignore a cyst because it is just a ridiculous fatty tissue.
At worst it brings about illness, destruction, and death. Okay, that is me being a bit melodramatic…but as a 36-year- old female incubator I was on edge about anything related to my pregnancy that did not include the terms healthy and glowing. This was my eighth pregnancy and only the fourth one to make its way to the second trimester, so yes I was a very cynical party of one.
My obstetrician reiterated that my baby had just three little cysts protruding from his brain, but was otherwise fine.
She then gave me her rushed smile and headed out the door to see a waiting room full of patients.
The news of these choroid plexus cysts had been delivered to me with such little emotion or angst that a very large part of myself wanted to ignore their existence. However, my type A persona took over and I had to immediately follow-up with a nurse after my doctor exited the exam room. I needed a second opinion to make sure my baby was not going to come out looking like an alien life form with protruding tentacles.
The nurse assured me that choroid plexus cysts can be common in earlier ultrasounds.
Technology is almost getting too good, which means that ultrasound imaging can see small, sometimes microscopic details. More and more often, ultrasounds are detecting these tiny cysts within the fetus’s spongy brain parts of ventricles, blood vessels, and cells before they have had a chance to disappear. When observed early and when the baby is of normal weight (which my little guys was, praise the lord!), there is usually no need to fret.
I nodded along and heard all of this information, but was still thinking about how fast I could Google more information from my smartphone in the lobby.
The nurse read my mind and noted again that the cysts were probably nothing. She also added “Don’t do any research about it online. At least not yet.” Because apparently, the real concern with choroid plexus cysts come later in pregnancy, when they do not disappear. Thus the waiting game began for me.
I was bitter at entering my second trimester with a stress that was beyond my control.
My first trimester had included nausea, vomiting, headaches, backaches, and bone-weary exhaustion. The start of the second trimester brought up my energy level, but it also accelerated my anxiety thanks to the unplanned photo op of these pesky choroid plexus cysts.
I ignored the solid advice of the nursing staff and immediately did a ton of online research about the term: choroid plexus cyst.
I found out that these tiny little blobs are present early during the first trimester as a baby is forming and growing cells, a brain, and everything else that is needed within the head space of an infant. The cysts usually absorb and subside in the second trimester. If they stick around until the third trimester, it means they have overstayed their welcome and a potential health problem could exist for the baby.
The ultrasound tech, at my appointment two weeks later, gave me good news and bad news.
The good news was that my three previous cysts were now down to two smaller cysts. However, the bad news was that they were still there. The tech also explained that the biggest concern with the cysts is that, when coupled with other markers, they can be an indicator for trisomy 18 – an error in cell division that often causes life-threatening medical complications.
Since the cysts were the only abnormality present, the likelihood of trisomy 18 was extremely low, but they still had to be watched and monitored while my baby was growing and progressing.
His head was in the 90th percentile, which in terms of childbirth had me freaked, but was actually a fantastic thing in relation to the choroid plexus cysts. Usually concerns about the cysts rise when a baby is small in weight and tiny in head circumference. So my baby being fat and big headed was a great thing despite the presence of tiny helmet horns.
A maternal health specialist confirmed for me two weeks later that the cysts were shrinking and another month later they disappeared completely.
I was then able to stop worrying about cysts and trisomy 18 and instead move on to bigger and better things, such as: meconium aspiration (Google it!) and scheduling a c-section.