Echocardiogram during Pregnancy

QUESTION

Dear Ms Ultrasound,
Hi. I'm seven month pregnant and at my checkup today, the doctor thought he heard a heart murmur. He has ordered an echocardiogram and made an appointment for me. They said to expect it to take at least an hour.

I have several questions. First, I can't lay still that long and not on my back. It just hurts. What will be done to help me be comfortable? Can I do anything, like bring my own pillow?

Second, what's the procedure like? I have had an ultrasound to look at my little girl, but nothing else. I don't know what to expect.

And last, is there something that can sound like a heart murmur that isn't dangerous?

Thanks for answering.

ANSWER

What the doctor has ordered for you is an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of your heart. This is a common procedure, that is quite easy for most body types. The exam requires that EKG leads be attached to your chest. You will be laying in a number of positions as they watch your heart and video tape your heart with the ultrasound machine.

You will hear the sound of your heart just as you may have heard your little girl's heart beating during your ultrasound with her. It is the same as having an ltrasound of a fetus, just in a different place.

Because you will have to be in a number of different positions, the exam should not be too hard on you, as you said it was hard to stay in one position. Most departments have pillows or cushions to help with comfort. If you do feel uncomfortable or faint please ask the sonographer to stop for a moment while you get yourself comfortable again. Then he or she may start up again. We often have to have a pregnant women roll to her side, as towards the end of a pregnancy, the pressure on the back or aorta may cause pain, nausea or feeling faint.

On occasion the sonographer may have to apply some pressure, to send the sound waves in between your ribs to get a good look at your heart. This can be a little uncomfortable, but not always. I myself have had one and found it quite easy.

My specialties in ultrasound do not include the heart. So, although I have knowledge on this subject, it is limited. I cannot answer your questions about the heart murmur and what it may lead to, but I do know it is common for physicians to hear murmurs and have them end up to be nothing.

Best of luck with your Echocardiogram. You will do fine.

-- Jane, RDMS

Jane Foley

Jane Foley has worked as a Sonographer (Ultrasound Technologist) since 1979. Jane has lived and worked in many parts of the world including Saudi Arabia. She is a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or RDMS. She pulls a wealth of information from her experience in the field of Radiology and her interactions with such a broad cross-section of cultures she has visited. She now makes her home on the island of Maui with her English husband, Michael.