Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions for Families with a Fetal Cardiac Diagnosis

We understand that having a baby diagnosed with a fetal heart condition can be scary and we hope these answers to our most frequently asked questions can help alleviate some of the stress.

A fetal echocardiogram (echo) is an ultrasound of an unborn baby’s heart. We use this diagnostic test to look at the structure and development of the baby’s heart and blood vessels.

Health care providers recommend a fetal echo during pregnancy for many different reasons and scenarios. Some of these include: 

  • A previous child or family member was born with a heart defect

  • Abnormal genetic test finding 

  • Abnormalities were seen on a fetal ultrasound 

  • Your baby’s heart rate was too fast, too slow, or irregular on a previous exam

  • During an ultrasound, your doctor noticed a condition called hydrops, which is unusual swelling or fluid accumulation in parts of your baby’s body

  • Your baby was conceived by assisted reproductive technology (IVF)

  • Multiple gestation (twins or more)

  • Maternal health conditions such as diabetes, lupus, a heart condition or a genetic condition

  • Pregnancy at an advanced age

  • Certain types of medication or drug exposure 

Between 22 and 26 weeks is often the most ideal time to get a fetal echo. However, we are able to perform a fetal echo early in the second trimester. As your baby grows and their bones continue to develop towards the end of the third trimester of pregnancy, it can become more difficult to see your baby’s heart on a fetal echo.   

A fetal echo takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.  

There is no preparation needed for a fetal echo. You do not have to come with a full bladder. Many families find it helpful to bring someone with them for added support, as well as a list of questions you may have for your fetal cardiology team.

Immediately following your fetal echo, you will sit down with a cardiologist who is specially trained in fetal cardiology to go over your test results. During this time, you can expect to go over how normal fetal heart circulation works and discuss any differences the cardiologist may see in your baby’s heart, and what that means for your baby and plan for delivery.

There are no risks for either the fetus or mother in fetal echocardiography. Fortunately, this is a test that does not involve radiation.

We treat all types of heart problems at Children’s Mercy. See a list of conditions here.

A specially trained sonographer will perform your fetal echo. During this time, your fetal cardiologist will be looking at the images in real time to assess your baby’s heart and function. Some things you can expect during your fetal echo include: 

  • You will be asked to lie down on an exam table. You will not typically have to change out of your own clothes. Pillows and linens are offered for your comfort.

  • The sonographer will apply gel to your belly.

  • Your sonographer will then use a device called a transducer to look at your baby’s heart. Throughout your exam, he or she will move the transducer around your belly to get the best images possible of your baby’s heart.

  • You may feel pressure at times during the exam as the sonographer moves the transducer around your belly.

  • Your sonographer may briefly leave the room during your exam to talk with the fetal cardiologist.

  • Once the sonographer is finished with the exam, the gel will be wiped off.

Possibly. If your baby is diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, your fetal cardiologist may recommend your baby be delivered in the Children’s Mercy Fetal Health Center in order to give your baby the support they may need when they are born.  

Some babies with certain heart conditions do not need immediate help after delivery, and therefore can be delivered at outside hospitals. This is a conversation and decision that will be discussed with both you and your referring provider to help develop a delivery plan that is best for both you and your baby’s needs.

Our NICU staff have provided this list of things to pack for your stay at Children’s Mercy.


  • Clothes (onesies and sleepers with the buttons down the middle work best with the wires)
  • Socks
  • Mittens
  • Hats
  • Bow or hair accessories
  • Special lotions or soaps for bath time (non-scented is best for gentle skin)
  • Wubbanub binky
  • Lovie/Wooby (soft infant toys that mother can put her scent on and baby can sleep with)
  • Soothing music and player
  • Card blood banking kit
  • Decorations to personalize the bedside (family pictures, drawings from siblings, personalized name sign, book for calendars autographs and personalized notes)
  • Memory making items

*Please remember Children's Mercy will provide all necessary baby supplies. The above are suggestions if you are looking to bring items from home.

*Ask your nurses before bringing additional items, many things will be provided by Children's Mercy (swings, diapers, toys, etc.)


  • Books
  • Coloring supplies
  • Extra clothes
  • Tablet (iTunes gift cards come in very handy as a reward system for your kids)
  • Blanket
  • Snacks/drinks (that don’t need to be refrigerated)

Mother and Father:

  • Clothing for you
  • Jacket or sweater
  • Slippers/flip flops
  • Robe (easy to use when doing skin-to-skin)
  • Extra sanitary pads
  • Lanolin®
  • Nursing pads
  • Nursing bras/shirts
  • Toiletries
  • Toothbrush
  • Hand lotion
  • Chapstick®
  • Face soap
  • Hair brush
  • Dry shampoo
  • Hair ties
  • Tylenol®
  • Tissues/hand wipes
  • Paper and pen
  • Journal (to document each day’s events or write down questions)
  • Notebook (to store business cards, questions, etc.)
  • Phone/tablet/laptop
  • Camera
  • Charges for electronic devices
  • Water cup
  • Books/magazines/entertainment
  • Headphones
  • Scrapbook kit
  • Phone numbers/takeout menus for nearby restaurants
    Cash/coins for the vending machines