Q&A: There is an issue with the density of my baby's heart. What does this mean?
Earlier this month, I had my second ultrasound to determine my baby's anatomy. Yesterday, my OB-GYN called me and said that she had gotten the results, and that the person who interpreted the ultrasound suggested I be referred to a specialist. There was something wrong with the baby's heart. When I heard this I blanked out and everything else my doctor said sounded to me like blah, blah, blah. The only other thing I heard was something about the density of the muscle and that she was referring me to a neonatologist.
Is there anything you can tell me regarding the density of my baby's heart? I know she told me not to worry, but how can I stay calm when my baby's health is possibly at risk?
I once heard that having children is like wearing your heart on the outside of your body—but I think this actually starts as soon as you find out you are pregnant. There is nothing like a question about the health of your baby to strike fear into moms and dads. That said, many problems found on ultrasound turn out to be insignificant—you just need more information.
In this case, I am not sure what they mean by the density of the baby’s heart, but heart findings at the time of second trimester ultrasound scan are not unusual. A good sonographer can see the four chambers of the baby’s heart (two ventricles and two atria) and the walls between the chambers. Sometimes they can see the valves and the outflow tracts as well. When something looks different in the heart at second trimester scan, the usual next step is to see a pediatric cardiologist. Amazingly, they can do the same sort of echocardiogram on a fetus that they do on babies after birth. This can help to figure out if a problem is serious or inconsequential. Babies who have major structural heart conditions are best cared for in medical centers with pediatric cardiologists and heart surgeons on staff. Finding out about these sorts of conditions before birth can be lifesaving.
Some heart findings don’t really have to do with a heart problem but rather are markers for genetic conditions like Down syndrome (DS). Without knowing more about the findings, I can’t say if that was the greatest concern. If you had other screening tests for DS that indicated a low chance, the heart finding often won’t raise your odds significantly. If you didn’t have testing, you may choose to get more information at this point in time. If the ultrasound report indicates an increased chance of DS, a genetic counselor can help you make decisions about whether you want to pursue diagnostic testing.
Remember that many problems found at ultrasound turn out to be inconsequential. I know that doesn’t take away your worry, but try to just keep putting one foot in front of the other right now. Continue to do all the things that are within your control to take good care of your baby, and get more information so you understand what is going on. Take care and good luck!