Prenatal screenings have improved over the last 50 years, allowing us to diagnose most congenital problems before the baby is even born. One important step in the prenatal assessment is looking at the baby's heart. This scan shows us the basic heart structure. If there are any concerns, we refer the mother for a more specialized cardiac assessment known as a fetal echocardiogram or fetal echo. During a fetal echo, we look closely at the heart's anatomy, heart rate, rhythm, function and blood flow.

When are fetal echos recommended for expectant mothers?

  • If the mother has already had a child born with a heart defect.
  • If there is a family history of genetic heart problems.
  • If the mother has a health condition such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, genetic conditions or exposure to certain medications.
  • If the baby has a genetic disorder.
  • If the routine ultrasound shows a possible abnormality or if the baby’s heart can’t be seen well. 

If there are any problems found with the baby's heart, follow up visits and more fetal echos will be needed as the baby grows and develops. Identifying heart problems before birth is important not only to prepare the parents, but to plan for the needs of the baby after he or she arrives.

The Fetal Heart Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, includes pediatric cardiologists, nurses and sonographers with expertise in fetal cardiac imaging and congenital heart defects. We work together with other subspecialties including Maternal Fetal Medicine, Neonatology, Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery, Pediatric Surgery and Genetics, to provide you with the most comprehensive prenatal care for your unborn child.

View a Baby's Heartbeat

View a clip of a baby's heartbeat during a fetal echocardiogram.

Watch the short clip

 

Dr. Renee Bornemeier is the Interim Chair of Department of Pediatrics and Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH)

Renee Bornemeier , M.D.

Interim Chair of Department of Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH)