Fetal Echocardiography: Procedure, Expectations, and Types

Fetal Echocardiography: Procedure, Expectations, and Types

Dec 01, 2020

Fetal echocardiography, or simply echocardiogram, is an exam that allows the doctor to better look at your unborn baby’s heart structure and functioning. It resembles an ultrasound in several aspects and is usually conducted during the second trimester.

During an echocardiogram procedure, sound waves are used to echo off your fetus’ heart structures. Next, the sound waves are analyzed using a machine that forms a picture of your fetus’ heartinterior. With this image, you can find out whether your unborn child’s heart is fully-formed and functioning.

The exam also lets the doctor see blood flow in and out of your baby’s heart. This way, your doctor at Children’s Center for Holistic Heart Health in Paramus, NJ, can detect any abnormalities in the heartbeat or blood flow.

When is the Procedure Performed?

It is important to note that not all expectant women require an echocardiogram. Most of them only need a routine ultrasound that shows the development of all their baby’s heart chambers. However, your OB-GYN will recommend this procedure in the case of inconclusive previous tests or abnormalities in the fetus’ heartbeat.

This test may also be performed in the following situations:

  • Your baby is at risk of developing heart complications
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Your born child has a heart condition
  • Drug and substance abuse during pregnancy
  • You have been on medications that could cause heart defects
  • You have medical conditions such as lupus, phenylketonuria, or rubella

Although your OB-GYN could ask to perform the test on you, the qualified person is a highly experienced ultrasound technician. A children’s cardiologist then reviews the results.

Types of Echocardiography

The exam can be performed through the abdomen (abdominal echocardiography) or vagina (transvaginal echocardiography). During abdominal echocardiography, the ultrasound technician asks you to sleep on your back, exposing your belly. Lubricating jelly is then applied to the skin before starting to move the ultrasound transducer on your belly to get images of your fetus’ heart.

When you go in for transvaginal echocardiography, you will have to remove any clothing below the waist and lie down. The technician then inserts a probe into your vagina that transmits sound waves to form images of your baby’s heart. This test is often done during the earlier pregnancy stages.

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