What Is a Fetal Echocardiogram? A fetal echocardiogram (also called a fetal echo) uses sound waves to create pictures of an unborn baby's heart. This painless ultrasound test shows the structure of the heart and how well it's working. Why Is a Fetal Echocardiogram Done? Doctors may order a fetal echocardiogram to look for any major problems with the developing baby's heart walls and valves, the blood vessels leading to and from the heart, and the heart's pumping strength. A fetal echocardiogram might be done for many reasons, including: a family history of certain heart problems the mother has a medical condition that may affect the baby's heart the developing baby has a genetic disorder an abnormality is seen on routine obstetrical ultrasound during the pregnancy the baby's heart could not be seen well on a routine obstetrical ultrasound How Should I Prepare for a Fetal Echocardiogram? You should be able to eat and drink normally beforehand. You do not need a full bladder before this test. Do not put any lotions, creams, or powders on your belly on the day of the fetal echocardiogram. What Happens During a Fetal Echocardiogram? A fetal echocardiogram is done in a darkened room, while you are lying down. It is similar to a routine ultrasound during pregnancy. Gel put on your belly helps sounds waves travel from the echocardiogram wand (called the transducer) to the baby's heart and back again. The person doing the test will move the wand around to get pictures of the heart from different angles. You will feel some pressure from the wand, but a fetal echocardiogram is not painful. How Long Does a Fetal Echocardiogram Take? It can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to get the pictures needed to see all the parts of the heart. Sometimes, the position of the baby can make it hard to see the heart, and the test will take longer. When Are the Results Ready? In most cases, the doctor will review the fetal echocardiogram and give you the results on the same day. Sometimes, another fetal echocardiogram will need to be done. Are There Any Risks From a Fetal Echocardiogram? A fetal echocardiogram is a safe procedure without any known significant risks to you or your developing baby. Back to Articles Related Articles Prenatal Tests: FAQs Every parent-to-be hopes for a healthy baby, but it can be hard not to worry. Find out what tests can keep you informed of your health — and your baby's — throughout pregnancy. Read More Prenatal Genetic Counseling Genetic counselors work with people who are either planning to have a baby or are pregnant to determine whether they carry the genes for certain inherited disorders. Find out more. Read More Echocardiogram An echocardiogram (also called an echo or cardiac ultrasound) uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. It shows the structure of the heart and its parts and how well they’re working. Read More Aortic Stenosis Aortic stenosis means the aortic valve is too small, narrow, or stiff. Many people have no symptoms, but kids with more severe cases will need surgery so that blood flows properly through the body. Read More Double Outlet Right Ventricle (DORV) Double outlet right ventricle (DORV) is a heart defect where the aorta connects to the heart in the wrong place. Read More Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect of a baby’s heart. The left side of the heart doesn’t grow as it should, making it smaller and weaker than normal. Read More Pulmonary Stenosis Pulmonary stenosis means the pulmonary valve is too small, narrow, or stiff. Many people have no symptoms, but kids with more severe cases will need surgery so that blood flows properly through the body. Read More Tricuspid Atresia Tricuspid atresia is a congenital heart defect. A baby born with tricuspid atresia often has serious symptoms soon after birth because blood flow to the lungs is much less than normal. Read More Truncus Arteriosus Truncus arteriosus is a heart defect that happens when a child is born with one large artery instead of two separate arteries. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.