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A fetal echocardiogram (also known as a fetal echo) is a painless sonogram on a pregnant woman that provides a closer look at her baby’s heart. This exam uses sound waves to create pictures of the baby's heart to look for any potential problems with the walls of the heart, the valves and the blood vessels. It is a safe procedure for both mother and baby.
A fetal echocardiogram is necessary under certain circumstances:
- There is a family history of heart problems from either the mother or the father.
- The mother has a medical condition that may affect her unborn baby’s heart.
- The baby was diagnosed with a genetic disorder.
- The mother had a prior pregnancy with a fetal heart condition.
- The pregnancy was conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
- There was an abnormality detected on an earlier sonogram.
- The baby's heart could not be seen well on an earlier sonogram.
Preparing for Your Exam
The Fetal Heart Program at the Center for Advanced Fetal Care specialists have extensive training and knowledge on unborn babies’ hearts. The fetal echocardiogram is very similar to a standard sonogram performed at 12 weeks or 20 weeks where the sonographer places gel on the mother’s belly and uses an ultrasound wand to get pictures.
The exam can take from 40 minutes to up to 2 hours. The time depends on where the baby is lying in the mother’s womb. It is possible that the sonographer may need to wait for the baby to turn in order to get the best angle for the sound waves.
Once the exam is over, we will review the results and discuss care for you and your baby.