Fetal Blood Circulation BEFORE Birth

Fetal Blood Circulation:

The fetal blood circulation is actually more complicated than after the baby is born (normal heart). This is because the mother (the placenta) is doing the work that the baby’s lungs will do after birth.

fetal blood circulation
© heart.org

The placenta accepts the bluest blood (blood without oxygen) from the fetus through blood vessels that leave the fetus through the umbilical cord (umbilical arteries, there are two of them). When blood goes through the placenta it picks up oxygen and becomes red. The red blood then returns to the fetus via the third vessel in the umbilical cord (umbilical vein). The red blood that enters the fetus passes through the fetal liver and enters the right side of the heart.

The red blood goes through one of the two extra connections in the fetal heart that will close after the baby is born.

The hole between the top two heart chambers (right and left atrium) is called a foramen ovale. This hole allows the reddest blood to go from the right atrium to left atrium and then to the left ventricle and out the aorta. As a result the blood with the most oxygen gets to the brain.

Blood coming back from the fetus’s body also enters the right atrium, but the fetus is able to send this blue blood from the right atrium to the right ventricle (the chamber that normally pumps blood to the lungs). Most of the blood that leaves the right ventricle in the fetus bypasses the lungs through the second of the two extra fetal connections known as the ductus arteriosus.

The ductus arteriosus sends the bluer blood to the organs in the lower half of the fetal body. This also allows for the bluest blood to leave the fetus through the umbilical arteries and get back to the placenta to pick up oxygen.

Since the foramen ovale and ductus arteriosus are normal findings in the fetus, it is impossible to predict whether or not these connections will close normally after birth in a normal fetal heart. These two bypass pathways in the fetal circulation make it possible for most fetuses to survive pregnancy even when there are complex heart problems and not be affected until after birth when these pathways begin to close.

 

References for Fetal Blood Circulation BEFORE Birth:
Heart.org
– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IRkisEtzsk

 


Watch how the blood flows through the fetal circulation and compare it to what happens in the baby’s body. Rishi is a pediatric infectious disease physician and works at Khan Academy. Created by Rishi Desai.

Watch the next lesson: https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/nclex-rn/nclex-rn-circulatory-system/fetal-circulation-ddp/v/fetal-structures-in-an-adult?utm_source=YT&utm_medium=Desc&utm_campaign=Nclex-rn

Missed the previous lesson? https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/nclex-rn/nclex-rn-circulatory-system/fetal-circulation-ddp/v/fetal-circulation-right-before-birth?utm_source=YT&utm_medium=Desc&utm_campaign=Nclex-rn

NCLEX-RN on Khan Academy: A collection of questions from content covered on the NCLEX-RN. These questions are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License (available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/).

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