Fetal Cardiology

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in children, affecting nearly one in every 100 newborns in the U.S. At Sibley Heart Center Cardiology, our Fetal Cardiology Program can help identify and provide ongoing consultation for suspected heart defects in unborn children.

Using ultrasound images, the optimal time for our doctors to see your child’s heart and how it is shaped and functioning is as early as 18 to 22 weeks. We are also able to provide care coordination throughout your pregnancy and follow-up care for your baby after delivery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a fetal echo?

      A fetal echo is an ultrasound, just like the one you get at your obstetrician's office. A fetal echo shows your baby's heart in detail. The heart structure is best seen at 18 to 22 weeks into the pregnancy.

  • What does a fetal echo do?

      A fetal echo procedure will:

      - Check your baby's heart structure, rhythm and function. 

      - Help make sure the heart problem does not get worse.

      - Check to see your baby is growing and developing well.

      If a serious heart defect is diagnosed with a fetal echo, more testing may be needed.

  • When should I see a pediatric cardiology team?

      A pregnant woman may be referred to a pediatric cardiologist for a fetal echo for the following reasons:

      - During regular visits with her doctor, an ultrasound or anatomy scan shows something that is not normal with the fetus.

      - There is a family history of heart problems in a first-degree relative (parents or siblings).

      - An abnormal heartbeat is heard from the womb.

      - A genetic or chromosomal abnormality exists in the fetus.

      - Another major organ system (kidneys, lungs, etc.) of the fetus has problems.

      - The mother has medical conditions such as diabetes, phenylketonuria (PKU) or a connective tissue disease such as lupus.

      - The mother has been exposed to viral infections, certain medicines, drugs or alcohol.

  • What if my baby has a heart defect?

      - We will work with the perinatologist (high risk obstertrician) and develop an individualized follow-up schedule to monitor your baby.

      - We will provide comprehensive education so that you can make an informed choice for your family and your baby.

      - Should your baby need surgery after delivery, we can prepare you ahead of time by connecting you with a surgeon and providing appropriate resources.

  • Who will be on my child’s medical team?

      If we find a heart defect, we have access to other medical professionals who will be able to help your family.

      - A pediatric cardiologist specializes in a child's heart and gives advice about the outlook and therapeutic options for your child's heart condition.

      - A pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in heart surgery for babies and children.

      - A perinatologist specializes in high-risk pregnancies. Also known as maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctor, or high-risk obstertrician.

      - A medical geneticist evaluates, examines, diagnoses and treats genetic diseases and conditions. He educates the family about what to expect for their baby and plans postnatal care with the baby’s pediatrician.

      - A genetic counselor discusses family history screening and the risk for future pregnancies or other family members. The counselor answers questions about how heart defects develop and the chance for other relatives or siblings to also have heart disease.

      - A neonatologist cares for premature infants or those who are critically ill.

      - A nurse practitioner has advanced education and training and works with the doctor to create the care plan for you and your child.

      - An obstetrician advises you about the management of your pregnancy and delivery.

      - A social worker provides support and reduces stress for patients and families. Our clinical social worker is available for confidential supportive counseling and can provide community resources, referrals to mental health professionals in the community, and access to hospital-based support.


    Congenital heart disease pregnancy

    5 Heart Questions to Ask at 20 Weeks

    Congenital heart defects are America's #1 birth defect.

    Learn 5 important questions to ask your doctor at 20 weeks
    to help detect problems early.