Fetal echocardiography (echo) is a test that shows pictures of a baby’s heart before birth. The pictures are formed using harmless sound waves. This is called ultrasound. The test checks for problems in the baby’s heart structure, function, or rhythm. Finding these heart problems before birth means that they can be managed early. This may also help in planning for what to do after birth. Many heart problems can be found with fetal echo. But some can’t be seen until after the baby is born. The test is painless. It is also noninvasive, meaning nothing is put into your body.
The test is usually done when you are at least 16 weeks pregnant. Your doctor may advise this test if you:
Had a pregnancy ultrasound that showed a possible heart problem
Had problems found by other tests, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (these check for genetic diseases and chromosomal problems)
Have a family history of congenital heart disease
Are taking certain medicines that may affect your baby’s development
Have a family history of certain genetic diseases linked with heart defects and disease
Have diabetes or other conditions
Follow any instructions you are given.
The test takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
You lie on an exam table with your abdomen uncovered.
Clear, nongreasy gel is applied to the skin on your belly.
A hand-held probe (transducer) is moved across your belly.
Sound waves from the transducer go to a computer. Pictures of your baby’s heart are seen on a screen.
You can return to your normal routine and diet.
Your doctor may talk to you about the early results right after the test. You will get the final results when the images have been fully looked at.
There are no known risks or complications associated with fetal echo.