Fetal echocardiography is a diagnostic procedure performed to study the structure and function of your baby’s heart during pregnancy. It can be performed through transvaginal ultrasound or abdominal ultrasound.
Fetal echocardiography is indicated in the second trimester (18 to 24 months of pregnancy). It can detect congenital heart abnormalities, which may include structural defects or functional defects in heart rhythm.
Your doctor usually orders a fetal echocardiography when
A routine ultrasound shows signs of abnormalities such as Ventricular Septal Defect, a hole in the wall between the ventricles
You have a family history of heart disease or your children suffer from heart diseases.
You are exposed to certain medications (for epilepsy or acne), alcohol and drugs that increase your baby’s risk of developing heart diseases
You have certain medical conditions such as rubella or type 1 diabetes
Fetal echocardiography is performed similar to a routine ultrasound where a lubricating gel which conducts sound waves is applied to your abdomen and a probe is passed over this area. The probe transmits sound waves that reflect off your baby’s heart and are picked up again by the probe. These are then converted into detailed images showing a moving picture of your baby’s heart and the blood flowing within. This is used to assess the structure and function of your baby’s heart. The test may also be performed through the vagina. Fetal echocardiography may take half an hour to 2 hours to perform.
Risks and complications.
Fetal echocardiography uses ultrasound waves which are safe for you and your baby. The procedure is not associated with any risks.
Fetal echocardiography provides a detailed view of your baby’s heart which is indicated in certain cases of potential risk. It is performed similar to a regular ultrasound and is completely safe. In case of abnormalities, it helps you and your doctor plan any treatment for your baby in advance.