For my readers who are pregnant or hope to become so, here is a short but great article on the 20-week ultrasound. It’s not “the big u/s when we find out the gender!!!!” — it is a whole lot more. At ours, we learned we had two girls, and that one had a serious heart anomaly. We were sent immediately to the fetal cardiologist for further examination. By the end of the day we had a diagnosis, a plan for monitoring the rest of the pregnancy, and a plan for where and how the birth would take place. If these things had not occurred, our heart baby would’ve had an even more difficult time. In fact, I think the early diagnosis and detailed birth plan saved her life.
The top five questions to ask during your 20-week ultrasound to detect Congenital Heart Defects
- Congenital heart defects are America’s #1 birth defect. Nearly one of every 125 babies is born with a CHD (almost 1% of all children born each year!).
- Congenital heart defects are the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths. 1 in 3 children who die from a birth defect have a congenital heart defect.
- This year almost 40,000 babies will be born with a congenital heart defect.
- In the U.S. twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined. Yet funding for research of pediatric cancer is 5 times greater.
- From 1993 to 2003 death rates for congenital heart defects have declined by 31% due to advances made through research!
- There is not yet a preventative cure for any type of congenital heart defect.
- Of every dollar the government spends on medical funding only a fraction of a penny is directed toward congenital heart defect research.
Most of the time, CHD is overlooked during the 20-week ultra sound. Education is imperative and urgent. Dr. Nina Gotteiner, a fetal/pediatric cardiologist at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital provides imperative information and a list of proactive questions that every expecting parent should know. “By asking these questions, expecting parents and their doctor can proactively identify heart issues before birth, and as a team, work together to prepare for any potential heart issues that may arise after birth.” Here are the top five questions expecting parents should ask their doctor during the 20-week ultrasound exam:
1.Do you see 4 chambers?
2.Do you look at the arteries or outflow tracks as part of your scan? *Note: Extremely important to focus on artery views. CHD often missed if only a standard “chamber view” is performed.
3.Are the heart and stomach in correct positions? Both organs should lay on the left side of the fetus.
4.Is the heart rate normal? Is the heart rate too slow (less than 100 beats per minute), too fast (over 200 beats per minute), or irregular? *Note: A normal heart rate range for a fetus is 120-180 beats per minute.
5.Is the heart function normal? Does the muscle work normally? Is everything hooked-up correctly?
This is what families of CHD babies want you to know. Knowledge is power. Just by asking the right questions and being an advocate for your babies health is a step towards greater awareness