A fetal arrhythmia occurs in about 1-2% of all pregnancies. A fetal arrhythmia is simply an abnormal heartbeat and can be classified as one of three types.
Tachycardia means that the heart is beating too fast. Brachycardia means the heart is beating to slow. An irregular heartbeat means that the heart is experiencing extra or skipped beats. A fetus' heart rate should be between 120 and 160 beats per minute to be considered normal and healthy.
Most arrhythmia's go away on their own and do not create any long-lasting effects for the baby. However, some fetal arrhythmias can reveal true health complications such as structural problems in the heart, heart disease, infections or exposure to alcohol, tobacco or drugs in utero.
Doppler and ultrasound exams can detect a fetal arrhythmia during pregnancy. Fetal arrhythmias can cause fetal distress or fetal death because the baby can not breathe well.
Treatments for this condition consist of medications, radiofrequency ablation and artificial pacemakers.