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About my appointment

You will be contacted by the fetal medicine staff with a date and time for your appointment.  Please bring your green handheld notes with you.

When you arrive please check in at the main Ultrasound reception at Saint Mary's Hospital and you will be asked to wait in the Fetal Medicine waiting area.

You may be referred to the fetal cardiology team because the sonographer has found a problem with the baby's heart or been unable to get good views during your 20 week anomaly scan.  If you are at slightly higher risk of having a baby with a heart problem you may also be referred for a fetal echocardiogram.

Fetal echocardiogram

You will be first called through for a scan of the baby's heart (fetal echocardiogram). This is a detailed scan where all the valves, vessels and blood patterns in the heart are checked, as well as the heart rhythm.  Scan time may vary depending on your baby's position and the heart problem detected and may take up to 45 minutes to complete.  It is similar to any other type of ultrasound scan and doesn't cause any harm to you or the baby.  It is not necessary to have a full bladder for this scan.

The scan will usually be performed by one of the fetal cardiology or fetal medicine consultants, but may be done by one of the trainees under consultant supervision.  Whoever is doing the scan may be fairly quiet while they are scanning.  This is because they will be concentrating on getting all the information.

When the scan is finished if there are any problems detected, the consultant will explain exactly what the heart problem is and what treatment or surgery may be possible after the baby is born.  They will often arrange another scan to check over the rest of your baby and may offer the option of an amniocentesis test to look for any underlying causes.  The team will discuss all options available.  Feel free to ask as many questions as you need to at this point.

A written report about the heart problem that has been detected will be documented in your green hand held notes.

After the appointment

If a problem is found this can be difficult information and often families want to go home and discuss their options in more detail.  We will provide contact details for the specialist midwives to discuss things further.

If a heart problem is detected, meeting one of the specialist nurses from Royal Manchester Children's Hospital is often very helpful in providing more information and support for families throughout the pregnancy.  Searching the internet is often misleading, but we can recommend some local and national charities to search out more information and support; these can be found in the 'Where can I get more information and support' leaflet on the website.

In most cases, where a heart problem is detected this does not cause major problems for the baby in the womb as the mother's placenta is providing the oxygen and supporting the circulation.  It is very important that you continue to look after yourself and attend all the normal pregnancy appointments at your local hospital.

Follow-up appointments

Following diagnosis we will usually see most families later on in the pregnancy.  This is a good opportunity to ask further questions and talk about planning the delivery and treatment after birth.  Another scan will be performed to check over the heart again and look for any changes as the heart has grown.

Following this appointment a care plan will be made detailing what checks or treatment is needed after your baby is born.  If you are delivering at your local hospital this care plan will be sent over to the delivery team and paediatric doctors.

For babies with more complex heart problems, we may recommend that your baby is born at Saint Mary's Hospital and cared for on our Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and reviewed by the cardiologist.  If surgery is required then the family can transfer to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in a planned way within the first couple of weeks.  In a small number of cases where early surgery is required then it may be planned that the baby is born at Liverpool Women's Hospital.