Fetal Echo (Your unborn baby’s heart scan)
What is it?
Fetal Echocardiogram is a detailed Ultrasound performed of the baby’s heart before the baby is born. It is a painless test that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the center of the fetus in real time, which enables the doctor to assess the structure and function of the fetal heart. There is no radiation with this test, and it is entirely safe for the fetus.
What does it show?
This test is done to diagnose structural abnormalities of the heart or to assess the rhythm, rate, and function of the fetal heart.
Note: Minor heart defects and abnormalities related to the change from fetal circulation to new-born circulation cannot always be detected.
Who needs It?
- If any of your family members had a congenital heart disease
- If you have a history of diabetes or any viral infection
- If you are taking any medicines other than iron/calcium tablets
- If your obstetrician has suspected an abnormal fetal ultrasound or any abnormality
- Abnormal fetal heart rate or rhythm
- When should it be performed: It is best if performed at 16-20 weeks of gestation, in case any decision needs to be taken regarding termination of pregnancy, which is legal in India until 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Does it need any preparation?
No, preparation like full bladder is required. This test is better done after meals avoiding tea and coffee. It is always important to have as much information as possible when you come for your fetal echocardiogram, especially the details of why your obstetrician referred you. Bringing whatever medical records you have will be very helpful. It is always a good idea to bring another caregiver if you have other small children with you.
Who Does It?
This study will usually be performed by a Pediatric Cardiologist/ Radiologist/Gynecologist or a Sonographer who is specialized in the fetal cardiac evaluation.
To perform this study, the trained personnel will apply some gel at the designated area around your/the pregnant woman’s belly, and the ultrasound probe is gently placed on the mother`s abdomen to take pictures.
This test is not painful and does not harm the fetus. Fetal Echocardiogram will take approximately 20-60 minutes to perform, depending upon the images and the case. The fetal heart is quite small, is covered by the rib cage, and may not always be fully visible in certain positions of the baby. Sometimes the patient may need a second or multiple examinations due to technical limitations.
After the study what to expect?
Once a Fetal Echocardiogram is done, and the test is standard, it would be reassuring for you. If heart disease is detected, you can be further counseled by an experienced Pediatric Cardiologist.