Skip to main content


Why I’m skipping the 20-week ultrasound

By Uncategorized125 Comments

Oh my, I hope this won’t make you think I’m crazy.

I’m pregnant with my third baby right now, but – for the first time – I won’t be getting a 20-week ultrasound (“u/s”).

Here’s some of the info that went into my decision.

Why I'm skipping the 20 week ultrasound

What’s a 20-week u/s anyway?

If you’ve never been pregnant before, the 20-week ultrasound is the one where they check the baby’s size, spine, and major organs. The ultrasound tech also looks at the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic fluid.  This is the appointment when many people find out their baby’s sex.

Benefits of getting a 20-week u/s

People feel very differently about ultrasounds.  Here are some potential benefits:

  • Opportunity to see and bond with your baby
  • Chance to rule out potential problems (like birth defects)
  • Peace of mind (if all measurements and scans are within the “normal” range)

Problems that can be detected

Overall, 3% of babies born in the US have a major malformation at birth (source).

Here are some potential problems and birth defects can be detected during the 20-week u/s:

  • Low birth weight
  • Increased risk for Down’s Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities
  • Low-lying placenta that’s covering your cervix
  • Serious birth defects (like problems with the baby’s heart, brain, and spine)
  • Cleft lip

Some conditions are easier to detect than others.  It’s possible for the baby to have a problem that goes undetected.  It’s also possible for a problem to be detected, but after more testing (or the baby’s actual birth) to find out that the baby is perfectly healthy.  (This is known as a “false-positive.”)

What to do if an anomaly is detected

If the u/s reveals an increased risk for a problem, your doctor or midwife will present you with options for more tests and counseling.

If a serious problem is detected with your baby, you may have the option to abort the pregnancy or prepare for treatment after birth.  Remember, this is very rare because only 3% of babies are born with a birth defect, and some will go undetected during the ultrasound.

Why I’m skipping the 20-week u/s

I’m working with a group of midwives who do not require a 20-week u/s unless there is a cause for concern with the baby or pregnancy.

Everything seems to be fine with my baby and me right now, but I was planning to have an ultrasound anyway…until I heard the first cost estimate from the hospital where I was going to have it done ($823).

Having to pay a large sum out of pocket raised a red flag to me, especially since the u/s was considered “optional.”

I polled the ladies who follow my New Leaf Wellness Facebook Page to see if I should suck it up or skip it:

“I would get the ultrasound just because of all the things they can catch now a days, I’d rather know ahead of time if there was something potentially wrong.” – Amy

“We had the same thing, totally worth the $$ just to know everything is ok.” – Andrea

“Skip.” – Heather

After more phone calls between my insurance, the hospital, and the midwives (and an endless amount of frustration), the final number that I would pay out of pocket looked more like $290.

(I should add that I’m only temporarily on a health insurance plan with a high deductible because my husband’s new work insurance will kick in until the end of this month.  If I can avoid paying the deductible until then, I won’t ever have to pay it.)

So I talked to my husband and one of my midwives again and we decided to skip the ultrasound.

I trust that my midwives will request an ultrasound later down the road if there’s any cause for concern (and I will gladly have an ultrasound done if that’s the case.)

To me, it’s not worth it to pay $200+ if the likelihood of detecting a problem is very, very small.  (I wouldn’t do anything if a problem was detected anyway.)

I’m also a pretty relaxed, non-anxious, and optimistic person.  So the whole “paying for peach of mind” thing doesn’t apply to me.  I already feel confident that all is well with me and my baby.

I’ll just have to bide my time and wait until my baby is born to see his/her sweet face.

So what do you think: Does my decision make sense to you or do you think I’m nuts?  What was your 20-week ultrasound experience like?  

Training for a half marathon while pregnant

By Uncategorized31 Comments

I’ve run a total of 10 half marathons, 4 while pregnant!  Here’s an inside look into what it’s been like for me to continue running races while pregnant.  Pics included!

During my first pregnancy, I ran a half marathon when I was 16 weeks pregnant.  During my second pregnancy, I ran a half at 5 weeks pregnant.  Now, I’m 17 weeks pregnant with my third baby, and I ran half marathons at weeks 6 and 11.

That’s a whole heck of a lot of running with a baby in tow!

(And that doesn’t even take into account the pregnant running I’ve done during the second and third trimesters.)

Here’s a pic of me and my friend Heather after my very first half marathon while pregnant back in 2009.

running a half marathon while pregnant race photo 09

And here’s a pic of me with the same fabulous friend at my most recent half marathon while pregnant.

running a half marathon while pregnant race photo 13

(I have to say, Heather hasn’t changed a bit and I think I look even better now than I did 4 years ago.  Much less puffy.)

How does my training change while pregnant?

I ran a full marathon last fall, so I started training for this race with a very good base of fitness.

Here’s the training that I did during this pregnancy.

running a half marathon during the first trimester of pregnancy training

(The “Week” number refers to my training week, not to my pregnancy. I typically spend 12-16 weeks training for a half marathon.)

You can see that I stopped running Yasso 800’s after I found out that I was pregnant.  (You can learn more about Yasso 800’s and how I train to run faster in a previous blog post.)  My main goal was to maintain distance so I would be comfortable running 13.1 miles on race day.

I even ended up running a half marathon while training (at the end of training week 7).

In general, I just listened to my body, stayed hydrated, and ran at a comfortable pace.

I ran a similar number of miles per week to what I run non-pregnant.

What have I learned from running a half marathon while pregnant?

Start with a strong running base.  I hope I’m not the first person to tell you that pregnancy is a steady DECLINE of fitness.  It’s just what happens.  It’s normal.  The fact that I’m going to get less and less fit motivates me to start each pregnancy at a high level of fitness with lots of room to go downhill.  Pregnancy isn’t the time to try to increase running speed or distance.  When I’m pregnant, I just run for fun.

Focus on the big picture.  A healthy, fit pregnancy and a beautiful healthy baby are much more important to me than any race.  As my running decreases during pregnancy, I try to focus on the GREAT things that I’m doing for myself and my baby and how much easier it will be for me to get back in shape post-baby.

Listen to your body.  When I feel great, I run, but I have no problem slowing down or walking if I need to (especially up Pittsburgh’s moster hills).  Pregnancy is the only time that I cut myself a break fitness-wise, so I try to take advantage of it.

Stay hydrated.  I try to drink water every mile while running.  During a half marathon, I also drink sports drinks.

Run with a friend.  Three of the four times that I’ve run a half marathon while pregnant I’ve run the race with someone else.  Since I’m just running for fun, it’s nice to have someone to talk to over the 2-hour run.  It also helps keep me from feeling discouraged and disappointed that I’m not giving the race 100% and running as fast as I can.    

How do I stay motivated?

I’m not a “supermom” or super athlete.     

There were plenty of days in the first trimester of this pregnancy when I was dog-tired and didn’t feel like running.  Almost all of my training runs took place in the afternoon on my treadmill when my younger daughter was napping.  This also happened to be the time of day when I was most exhausted.

I ran anyway.

Believe it or not, having a half marathon on my calendar reminded me how important it was to keep running.

Since this is my third pregnancy I know how important staying active is.  Because I was active during my previous two pregnancies, I was able to:

  • Keep my weight gain within the range recommended by my midwives (20-30lbs)
  • Lose my baby weight quickly and easily after birth
  • Stay happy and healthy through two uncomplicated pregnancies
  • Take care of my first little one while super preggo with #2
  • Get back in super shape post-baby (twice!)

Now that I’m already a mom, showing my girls that exercise is a “normal” part of life is the icing on the cake.

Here’s a pic of my daughter Isla holding a sign that my parents made for my half marathon while pregnant before Easter this year.

running a half marathon during the first trimester of pregnancy - isla

If that’s not motivation to keep running, I don’t know what is.

More info and support

Looking for more support for staying active during prenancy?  Follow my fit pregnancy journey on Facebook ( and Instagram (@kellymcnelis).  

You can also read my best tips for getting back in shape after having a baby and the three running workouts that I use to get back in shape and run faster after giving birth.

Have you participated in a race while pregnant?  Leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear about it!!


PS I don’t claim to be a personal trainer, running coach, midwife, or OB-GYN. While I’m happy to share my experiences as inspiration, please read my disclaimer and consult some of those experts before trying anything yourself.  The most important thing during pregnancy is to keep you and your baby healthy.