Getting ultrasound images of your baby is a joyful milestone.
Specialized Fetal Heart Evaluations
Ultrasounds are a routine procedure to check on the growth and development of the baby and to ensure the mother’s good health throughout her pregnancy. For a typical pregnancy, a standard ultrasound scan is usually appropriate. However, not all pregnancies are typical. Some high-risk pregnancies may require a more specialized fetal heart evaluations, and in these cases a detailed fetal echocardiogram may be performed by a specialized technician.
The words “high-risk” may cause anxiety for parents-to-be, especially when it comes to possible heart problems. It may help to keep in mind that maternal-fetal medicine specialists like the ones at Valley Perinatal Services are well trained to provide caring, specialized medical care.
Learn more about what to expect from a fetal echocardiogram below.
What is a Fetal Echocardiogram?
A fetal echocardiography is a specialized ultrasound test performed by an ultrasound sonographer or maternal-fetal medicine specialist who is specially trained in pediatric cardiology. The test is very similar to an ultrasound.
Echocardiography can either be performed abdominally or transvaginally, and uses safe sound waves that bounce off the structures of the baby’s heart. These sound waves are interpreted by a computer as images of a baby’s heart. These images are then interpreted by a specialist in fetal congenital heart disease, who can see how the heart has formed and verify that it’s working properly.
When Are Fetal Echocardiograms Needed?
A fetal echocardiography is generally performed in the second trimester, between 18 and 24 weeks of gestation. An obstetrician may recommend this procedure if:
- Previous ultrasounds or tests detected an abnormal heartbeat
- The child is at risk for heart abnormalities or other congenital disorders
- There is a family history of heart disease
- The baby has a sibling with a heart condition
- The mother has taken certain medications that could cause fetal heart defects
- The mother has certain medical conditions, including type 1 diabetes, lupus, phyenylketonuria, or rubella
What to Expect During a Fetal Echocardiogram
Being prepared for the procedure may help reduce anxiety and stress. Before the scan, gather as much information as possible, including the reason for referral and any applicable medical records. Expect the test to take between 30 minutes to two hours, depending on what the doctor is looking for and the position of the baby.
For the mother, the test feels like a standard ultrasound and may be performed either abdominally or transvaginally, as needed.
Assessing an unborn child’s heart before they are born is important for their health. No mother wants to hear that her child may have heart problems, but knowing what to expect allows doctors to plan for procedures or medical equipment they may need to ensure the best possible outcome.
After the Fetal Echocardiogram
Following the ultrasound, a specialist will analyze the test results and explain the implications of those results. The specialist may suggest more testing be performed, including a follow-up echocardiogram or genetic testing. If necessary, they may refer the mother to additional specialists.
Our goal is to provide the parents the best course for managing a high-risk pregnancy by applying their specialized training as an Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist in the field of fetal cardiology.
Obstetric Ultrasounds from Valley Perinatal Services
Pregnancy should be beautiful experience, and adding the possibility of a high-risk heart condition can be extremely stressful. You can safely deliver a high-risk pregnancy and give your child the best possible outcome with a little extra care and the right team.
The seven Valley Perinatal locations in and around the Phoenix, Arizona area are staffed with expert perinatologists, sonographers, and fetal cardiac specialists who are ready to develop a specialized plan to manage your care. We work closely with expectant mothers who are high-risk and the Ob/Gyns who care for them. Call 480.756.6000 or request service by clicking the button below.