Stories about: fetal testing for heart defects

Why it’s important to ask about your baby’s heart during an ultrasound


Did you know that at least half of all babies born with a heart condition are not diagnosed during pregnancy? Heart defects can seriously impact a child’s health, but knowing ahead of time will allow you to find the right people who can help. In some cases, prenatal detection can lead to earlier treatment for the baby.

Watch this short video to learn what to ask at your 18- to 22-week screening ultrasound to make sure your baby’s heart is healthy. If you don’t feel comfortable asking the questions yourself, download the questions and share them with the person performing your ultrasound.

Taking a few extra moments at your ultrasound is an important first step to managing your child’s health. Your baby might not be born yet, but they’re already counting on you.

Explore bostonchildrens.org/fetalheart for more information and resources.

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Heart Month: Catching up with the Peerless family

You may remember Renee Peerless from the ABC documentary Boston Med, which aired last summer and featured several Children’s families and clinicians. After Renee’s unborn son, Sam, was prenatally diagnosed with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), an ABC camera crew followed Renee constantly, highlighting the care required to help a baby born with a heart defect survive the delicate first few days of life. In the following post Renee relives the experience and talks about how the fetal diagnosis of Sam’s condition made an extremely trying situation easier to deal with.

Jake sees the pregnant Renee for the first time in months (photo courtesy of ABC.)

For Renee Peerless, the decision to have genetic testing done during a routine ultrasound had more to do with her husband Jake than her unborn child. Jake, a solider stationed in Iraq, was overseas for most of Renee’s pregnancy, so she initially saw the testing as a chance to have more images to share with him. “Jake felt like he was missing a lot so I wanted more pictures of Sam to send him,” she says. “I knew testing was a good precautionary measure, but my real motivation was getting a few extra ultrasound pictures.”

But as it turned out, the tests revealed that there was something seriously wrong with Sam’s heart. In a matter of minutes Renee went from giddy anticipation to the terror of learning that her unborn son’s health was in serious jeopardy. “It was like my whole world was falling apart,” she says.

The next week Renee met with a pediatric cardiologist in her home state of Connecticut and was told that Sam had a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), where the left side of the heart is underdeveloped, limiting its ability to pump blood.

Sam had two open-heart surgeries before he was a week old.

“It was so much to take in all at once,” she says. “I didn’t even know what a congenital heart defect was and all of the sudden it was all I could think about.”

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