A fetal echocardiogram (also called a fetal echo) uses sound waves
to create pictures of an unborn baby's heart. This painless ultrasound test shows
the structure of the heart and how well it's working.
Why Is a Fetal Echocardiogram Done?
Doctors may order a fetal echocardiogram to look for any major problems with the
developing baby's heart walls and valves, the blood vessels leading to and from the
heart, and the heart's pumping strength.
A fetal echocardiogram might be done for many reasons, including:
a family history of certain heart problems
the mother has a medical condition that may affect the baby's heart
an abnormality is seen on routine obstetrical ultrasound
during the pregnancy
the baby's heart could not be seen well on a routine obstetrical ultrasound
How Should I Prepare for a Fetal Echocardiogram?
You should be able to eat and drink normally beforehand. You do not need a full
bladder before this test. Do not put any lotions, creams, or powders on your belly
on the day of the fetal echocardiogram.
What Happens During a Fetal Echocardiogram?
A fetal echocardiogram is done in a darkened room, while you are lying down. It
is similar to a routine ultrasound during pregnancy. Gel put on your belly helps sounds
waves travel from the echocardiogram wand (called the transducer)
to the baby's heart and back again. The person doing the test will move the wand around
to get pictures of the heart from different angles.
You will feel some pressure from the wand, but a fetal echocardiogram is not painful.
How Long Does a Fetal Echocardiogram Take?
It can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to get the pictures needed to see all the parts
of the heart. Sometimes, the position of the baby can make it hard to see the heart,
and the test will take longer.
When Are the Results Ready?
In most cases, the doctor will review the fetal echocardiogram and give you the
results on the same day. Sometimes, another fetal echocardiogram will need to be done.
Are There Any Risks From a Fetal Echocardiogram?
A fetal echocardiogram is a safe procedure without any known significant risks
to you or your developing baby.