The aim of this fact sheet is to give you information if your baby is diagnosed with a congenital heart condition before they are born.
When do congenital heart conditions happen?
The heart is formed between the sixth and twelfth week of pregnancy and it is at this time that the problem can start.
What causes congenital heart conditions?
It is still not clear what causes congenital heart conditions. There are certain factors that may increase the risk of having a baby with a heart condition. These include:
It is important to remember that doctors usually do not know the cause of the congenital heart condition.
What is a foetal heart scan?
A foetal heart scan is performed if doctors think there may be a problem with your baby’s heart. The scan is an ultrasound examination of the heart and is normally carried out at 18 to 22 weeks. However, due to advances in scanning technology, it is now possible for scans to be performed from around 13 weeks onwards. Your scan will take place in a specialist paediatric cardiac centre (sometimes called a foetal cardiology centre).
Preparing for the scan
Many people find it helpful to have someone with them during the scan so you may want to consider taking your partner, a relative or a friend along. It is best to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment to give the medical team plenty of time to explain the procedure to you.
What will happen during the scan?
The scan is very similar to a normal ultrasound scan, except that it will concentrate on examining your baby’s heart. This usually involves checking the four main chambers of the heart (atria and ventricles) and also examining the two major vessels (aorta and pulmonary artery) as they leave the heart. This examination will help to identify any problems with the structure, function or rhythm of your baby’s heart.
At the end of the appointment, once the scan is finished, the medical team will tell you the result.
Finding out more
If your baby has a heart condition, you should be able to ask the doctor any question you like. The doctor, normally a foetal or paediatric heart cardiologist should explain to you:
We have fact sheets explaining all the most common heart conditions. You can order these by contacting us on our freephone infoline 0808 808 5000 or you can download the fact sheets from our website –www.chfed.org.uk.
Questions to ask
Finding out your child has a heart condition can be very upsetting and it can be hard to take everything in. Do not worry if you think of more questions after your appointment. You can always book another appointment with the doctor.
Some questions you may want to ask are shown below.
Before you leave
Before you leave the centre, you may want to do the following.
More support and information
If you feel you need someone to talk to, call us on our freephone infoline 0808 808 5000. We can put you in contact with other parents who know what it is like to be told that their child has a heart condition.
Other fact sheets that you may be interested in
|Name of doctor:|
|Address and telephone number of the paediatric cardiac unit:|
|Other people you may need to speak to (e.g. cardiac liaison nurse):|
|Date of next appointment:|
Evidence and sources of information for this CHF information sheet can be obtained at:
(1) National Institute for Health & Care Excellence. Structural Heart Defects Overview. London: NICE; 2017. Available at:
(2) NHS Choices. Congenital Heart Disease. London: NHS; 2017. Available at:
About this document:
Published: June 2013
Reviewed: June 2017
Due for review: June 2019
To inform CHF of a comment or suggestion, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 0300 561 0065.