Fetal cardiac dysfunction refers to a number of heart problems in a growing fetus. For example, the heart can be:
The heart is not adequately able to move blood through the fetus’ body. This can cause distress in the fetus. The condition can range from mild to severe.
Blood Flow Through the Heart
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Cardiac dysfunction may be due to:
General risk factors for heart problems include:
The symptoms depend on the type of defect. The doctor will monitor your baby’s growth and heart rate during the pregnancy. During fetal monitoring, the doctor may detect an abnormal heartbeat, such as:
During imaging tests, the doctor may also detect:
Fetal cardiac dysfunction can be detected using special tests during pregnancy.
Images may be taken of your abdomen. This can be done with:
Your fetus' fluids may be tested. This can be done with amniocentesis.
Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. During your pregnancy, you will need to be examined by specialists, such as:
There are many categories of this condition. Treatment depends on the type of defect. In certain cases, the problem can resolve on its own.
In other cases, the condition may be treated during the pregnancy. For example, surgery may be done to repair abnormal structures while the baby is in the uterus.
Your baby may need medicine or surgery after birth. Examples of surgeries that may be done include:
Make sure you receive good prenatal care:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Heart Association
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Special tests for monitoring fetal health. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.or... . Accessed July 19, 2013.
Congenital heart defects. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.o... . Accessed July 19, 2013.
Congenital heart defects. Nemours' Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.... . Updated January 2012. Accessed July 19, 2013.
Evaluation and diagnosis. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://childrensho... . Accessed July 19, 2013.
Fetal echocardiography/your unborn baby's heart. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.o... . Accessed July 19, 2013.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013