In many cases, congenital heart disease is diagnosed during pregnancy. However, a diagnosis may sometimes only be confirmed after the birth.
Congenital heart disease may initially be suspected during a routine ultrasound scan of the baby in the womb. Specialist ultrasound, called foetal echocardiography, will then be carried out at around 18 to 22 weeks of the pregnancy to try to confirm the exact diagnosis.
This may also be undertaken if there’s a family history of congenital heart disease or where there’s an increased risk. Echocardiography is a type of ultrasound scan, where high-frequency sound waves are used to create an image of the heart.
However, it’s not always possible to detect heart defects, particularly mild ones, using foetal echocardiography.
It’s sometimes possible to diagnose a baby with congenital heart disease shortly after birth if some of the characteristic signs or symptoms of congenital heart disease, such as a blue tinge to the skin (cyanosis), are present.
Your baby’s heart will be checked as part of the newborn physical examination. The examination involves observing your baby, feeling their pulse, and listening to their heart with a stethoscope. Heart murmurs are sometimes picked up.
However, some defects don’t cause any noticeable symptoms for several months or even years.