Congenital heart problems are one of the most common fetal anomalies identified during the 18-20 week morphology scan. Overall, fetal heart problems are detected in 1% of pregnancies but certain women are considered at higher risk. This includes:
- Women with pre-pregnancy diabetes
- Women with a high nuchal translucency measurement
- Monochorionic twin pregnancies
- Families with a history of congenital heart problems
- Women taking certain anti-epileptic medications, SSRIs or lithium
Although your baby’s heart is always examined during the 18-20 week morphology scan, a detailed fetal echocardiogram is best performed at 22-24 weeks, when the heart is bigger and a more detailed ultrasound is possible (www.shoreforwomen.com.au/fetal-echocardiogram/).
Dr. Colin Walsh is highly experienced at fetal cardiac ultrasound and has performed these scans in hundreds of high-risk women. He and his colleagues in Ireland have recently published a large 5-year study on fetal congenital heart defects (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pd.4575/abstract). During this study, they performed fetal echocardiograms in 1,250 high-risk pregnancies and diagnosed 285 babies with cardiac abnormalities.