A fetal echocardiogram (fetal echo) uses sound waves to create pictures of an unborn baby's heart. This painless ultrasound exam shows the structure of the heart and how well it's
working. Doctors may order a fetal echo 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 may be indicated for many reasons, including:
• a family history of heart problems
• the baby has a genetic disorder
• 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
To prepare for a fetal echo you should be able to eat and drink normally beforehand. You do not need a full bladder before this test. However, we do ask that you do not put any lotions,
creams, or powders on your belly on the day of the exam.
A fetal echocardiogram is done in a darkened room, while you are lying down. Gel put on your belly helps sounds waves travel from the echo transducer to the baby's heart and back.
The exam is lengthy and can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the position of the baby and the sonographer’s ability to see the heart structures.
In most cases, the doctor will review the fetal echo the same day and a finalized report will be sent to your doctor within 24 hours.