Congenital heart defects, abnormalities in the heart’s structure that are present at birth, are the most common type of birth defects. If your newborn has a congenital heart defect, or if you are pregnant and your unborn baby may be at risk of developing one, we can help.
Our team of fetal and pediatric heart specialists has extensive training and experience in cardiology care for unborn babies, newborns and infants. Pregnant women will find the high-quality care, support and education they need, to help their babies have a healthy start.
Fetal Heart Center: Experienced Prenatal and Newborn Heart Care
The Women & Infants Center partners with the Fetal Heart Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital to offer mothers and their babies access to expert fetal heart specialists. The Fetal Heart Center care team specializes in detecting, evaluating and managing congenital heart defects and other cardiac diseases in babies before birth.
We provide expert care throughout your pregnancy, during delivery and after discharge to ensure that your baby is healthy and thriving. At the Fetal Heart Center, you’ll benefit from:
- Top-rated specialty heart care: The Fetal Heart Center is part of the St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center, one of the best pediatric heart centers in the country. Every type of pediatric and neonatal heart specialist is ready to treat your baby for any heart condition.
- Cardiac intensive care unit (CICU): Babies born with heart defects receive dedicated and specialized intensive care at the Inpatient Heart Center, which has the only pediatric CICU in the region. The Inpatient Heart Center is near the maternity unit, making it easy for moms and families to visit their babies while recovering from delivery.
- Dedicated nurse coordinator: Scheduling and managing all your medical appointments, screenings and tests can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you’re from out of town. Our dedicated nurse coordinator helps schedule your prenatal appointments and coordinate the paperwork.
- Perinatal behavioral health services: Receiving news that your baby has, or may have, a serious heart defect can be heartbreaking. As part of the Fetal Care Center, dedicated psychologists provide counseling, support and, when appropriate, medications for expectant and new mothers and their families, to ease their anxiety and stress. Learn more about our perinatal behavioral health services.
- Cardiac neurodevelopmental program: Research shows that children with congenital heart defects may be at greater risk for developmental delays. We are the only facility in the St. Louis area to offer this program that monitors, evaluates and treats children, in and out of the hospital. Our highly skilled team works to optimize your child’s developmental outcomes and quality of life.
- National Pediatric Cardiology Quality Improvement Collaborative (NPC-QIC): We are one of only 60 pediatric cardiology centers across the country to be part of this collaborative. The NPC-QIC focuses on dramatically improving outcomes for infants with cardiovascular disease, specifically hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a complex congenital heart defect. Through the work of this collaborative, survival rates for this high-risk condition have improved.
Congenital Heart Defects: Risk Factors
We treat pregnant women whose obstetricians have diagnosed their unborn babies with a congenital heart defect or suspects the risk of developing one. We also see women with conditions that affect their own heart.
To see a specialist at the Fetal Heart Center, you will need your doctor’s referral. We treat women and their unborn babies who have:
- Suspected fetal heart abnormality following a fetal anatomical survey
- History of congenital heart defects in you or the baby’s father, or previously giving birth to a child with a congenital heart defect
- Diagnosis of a condition with a high likelihood of cardiac abnormalities, such as:
- Diaphragmatic hernia
- Omphalocele, a birth defect in which the abdominal organs protrude through the umbilical cord
- Down syndrome
- Fetal arrhythmia, heartbeat in the baby that is irregular, too fast or too slow
- Gestational diabetes, diabetes during pregnancy
- Autoimmune disease in the mother, such as lupus or Sjogren’s syndrome
- Identical twin pregnancy
- Pregnancy conceived using in-vitro fertilization (IVF), which may increase the risk of congenital heart defects
To make an appointment with a Washington University fetal heart center specialist at the Women & Infants Center, call 314.454.5437.