Identifying heart problems before birth ensures your baby gets the most effective treatment as early as possible. Our pediatric heart specialists use the latest technology to diagnose congenital heart defects while your baby is still in the womb. We offer resources for your pregnancy and delivery, and we help you prepare for your baby’s treatment before and after birth.
Diagnosing Congenital Heart Defects Before Birth
Congenital heart defects are problems with a baby’s heart structure. These can range from simple concerns that only need monitoring to more complex conditions that require pediatric heart surgery and ongoing care through adulthood.
If a problem with your baby’s heart is detected during a routine ultrasound scan, or if another medical concern is suspected, you will be referred to our fetal cardiology experts. Diagnosing congenital heart defects requires precise ultrasound evaluation, which is performed by pediatric cardiologists who are trained to recognize congenital heart defects as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy, and in some cases even earlier.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the region. Find one near you.
Please call 919-668-3126. Our nurse navigator will help make your arrangements.
Care During Pregnancy
Dedicated Nurse Navigator
If a heart defect is found in your baby, your nurse navigator will guide you through next steps and connect you with the appropriate experts. In addition to answering your questions along the way, the nurse navigator will take care of some important tasks so that you don’t have to, including:
- Obtaining your medical records, including imaging reports and other test results
- Helping schedule your appointments with pediatric cardiologists, pediatric heart surgeons, and others who may be involved in caring for you and your baby
- Helping set up nearby lodging during your baby’s admission, if needed
Knowing what to expect during and after delivery can make the process feel less scary. Our nurse navigator will give you a personal tour of the facilities you’re most likely to encounter, including the Duke Birthing Center, pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU), neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and others.
Advanced Prenatal Care and Monitoring
To monitor your baby’s development, you may be scheduled for regular fetal stress tests and more frequent appointments with your obstetrician. As you get closer to your delivery date, you may also see a pediatric cardiologist and perhaps a pediatric heart surgeon. We coordinate your care so that multiple specialists can review your test results and images prior to appointments.
You may be prescribed medications that will pass from your bloodstream to your baby’s. These medications are safe for both you and baby.
Delivering at Duke
If your baby is diagnosed with a congenital heart defect before birth, you will deliver at Duke Birthing Center at Duke University Hospital where you will have access to our obstetric and neonatal experts and the latest advances in pediatric care.
Our specialized PCICU is dedicated to caring for infants and children with heart disease. Our 16-bed facility is one of only two PCICUs in the state. Our unit is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by physicians and staff with specific training in pediatric heart and critical care. Our Level IV NICU is equipped to treat babies with heart issues, as well as those born prematurely. The Level IV designation indicates we provide the highest level of care for critically ill infants. Depending on the severity of your baby’s condition, you may be scheduled for a cesarean section, and your baby may be go directly to the PCICU or NICU after delivery.
Neonatal Bonding Program
Duke is one of only a few places in the country with a cardiac neonatal bonding program. Even if your baby has a heart problem, there is a very good chance that your baby can still spend time with you after delivery, before being transferred to an intensive care unit. Studies performed at Duke have shown that this is safe for most babies, and we will try our best to ensure you have this important time together. In most cases, we can tell before birth whether this will be possible and will discuss it during your prenatal visits.
Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in nine pediatric specialties.