Fetal Echocardiogram: What's it for and How is it Done?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jan 28

    Fetal Echocardiogram: What's it for and How is it Done?

    Fetal Echo (Foetal Echo), also referred to as fetal echocardiogram (foetal echocardiogram), is an ultrasound performed between week 18 and week 24 of pregnancy. The test is helpful to check the functioning and structure of the baby’s developing heart.

    A fetal echocardiogram is performed in two ways – abdominal ultrasound and transvaginal ultrasound. A fetal echocardiogram is performed using similar techniques that are used for the ultrasound. In this procedure, a machine uses sound waves to analyze and create images. The images are displayed on a computer screen and are further used to monitor your fetus’ heart.

    Why is it done?

    A foetal echo is not recommended for every pregnant woman. In most cases, basic ultrasound tests are sufficient for monitoring your baby’s heart. Your doctor may recommend doing fetal echo if your previous ultrasound test results are not conclusive or if your doctor suspects any issues with your baby’s heart.

    Other reasons why it may be recommended:

    • The test is recommended if you have a family history of heart ailments.
    • Your doctor may recommend doing the test if you have certain medical conditions like type 1 diabetes, heart ailments, phenylketonuria, etc.
    • Your baby is also at the risk of developing heart ailments if you have consumed alcohol or illicit drugs during pregnancy.
    • A fetal echocardiogram is also recommended if the unborn baby’s sibling has any health condition associated with the heart.

    Based on the fetal echocardiogram results, your doctor may recommend the procedure you need to follow. Other procedures that your doctor may recommend to monitor your baby’s well-being include a detailed fetal ultrasound and MRI. These tests are helpful to diagnose if other organs of your baby are functioning properly.

    In some cases, amniocentesis is also recommended to diagnose chromosomal and genetic issues.

    Prerequisites for Fetal Echocardiogram

    • Your doctor may help you with all the instructions you need to follow before the test.
    • You are allowed to consume food and drinks as per your regular routine.
    • Unlike other prenatal ultrasounds, your doctor may not recommend having a full bladder.
    • Your doctor may ask you to avoid the application of any skincare products on your belly area.
    • It may take 45 minutes to two hours for the test, so plan your day accordingly. In some cases, when certain circumstances make it difficult for capturing accurate images, it may take a longer time.
    • Inform your doctor about all the medications you take.
    • In some cases, pregnant women may also panic with the thought of the test and its results. It is advised to consult your doctor and get your doubts cleared. Your doctor may even ask you to meet a counselor.

    Understanding Fetal Echocardiogram Results

    The test results are usually reviewed by a cardiologist with a specialization in maternal-fetal conditions. You may need to visit your doctor to understand the test results better.

    If the test results indicate ‘normal’, it means your unborn baby’s developing heart is healthy and there’s no cardiac abnormality. However, having a normal result does not always mean that heart ailments are ruled out. There are certain heart ailments such as holes present in between the normal chambers that may not be visible in the tests.

    If the test results indicate ‘abnormal’, it means there is an issue with your unborn baby’s heart. The issue may be a defect in the heart, abnormal rhythm, etc. In such cases, your doctor may recommend additional medical tests such as an MRI scan or ultrasounds to diagnose the issue.

    Once your doctor is able to diagnose the issue, they will be able to recommend a suitable treatment option.

    While interpreting the test result, your doctor will provide you with all the information that will help you to get ready for a safe pregnancy and delivery. In case of complications, your doctor may even recommend meeting a cardiac surgeon to understand the issue in-depth and the procedures you may need to follow after the birth of your baby.

    Procedure for Fetal Echocardiogram

    The procedure for fetal echocardiogram depends on the type of echocardiogram your doctor has recommended.

    Abdominal echocardiography

    The procedure is similar to an abdominal ultrasound. In this procedure, the healthcare professional will ask you to lie down in a comfortable position. They will apply a gel on your abdomen. Now the healthcare professional will move the ultrasound transducer around your abdomen area. The transducer sends high-frequency sound waves that further works to make images. This is moved all over your abdomen until the required images are captured.

    The procedure does not involve any risk and is completed within 30 to 45 minutes.

    Transvaginal echocardiography

    In this procedure, the healthcare professional will ask you to lie down in a comfortable position. The healthcare professional will insert a probe-like tool into your vagina that is helpful to create sound waves. These waves are helpful to create images. There is no risk involved in the procedure. However, it may make you slightly uncomfortable.

    Both the procedures are safe as the sound waves do not cause any harm to the unborn baby.

    Learn more about Other Conception Topics here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jan 28


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