You are on page 1of 20

Fetal Circulation

Fetal Circulation

 By the third month of development, all

major blood vessels are present and

 Fetus must have blood flow to placenta.

 Resistance to blood flow is high in lungs.

Umbilical Circulation
 Pair of umbilical
arteries carry
blood & wastes to
 Umbilical vein
carries oxygenated
blood and
nutrients from the
The Placenta
 Facilitates gas and
nutrient exchange
between maternal
and fetal blood.
 The blood itself does
not mix.
Umbilical vein to portal
 Some blood from the
umbilical vein enters the
portal circulation allowing
the liver to process
 The majority of the blood
enters the ductus
venosus, a shunt which
bypasses the liver and
puts blood into the
hepatic veins.
foramen ovale
 Blood is shunted from
right atrium to left
atrium, skipping the
 More than one-third
of blood takes this
 Is a valve with two
flaps that prevent
ductus arteriousus
 The blood pumped
from the right
ventricle enters the
pulmonary trunk.
 Most of this blood is
shunted into the
aortic arch through
the ductus
What happens at birth?
 The change from fetal to postnatal circulation
happens very quickly.
 Changes are initiated by baby’s first breath.
Difference between adult and
fetal circulation
Artery Carries Carries Non-
oxygenated oxygenated
blood away blood away
from the heart from the
fetal heart
Veins Carries non- Carries
oxygenated oxygenated
blood towards blood back
the heart to the heart
Exchange of Takes places Takes place in
Gases in the lungs the placenta

Pressure Increase Increase

pressure on pressure on
the left side of the right side
the heart of the heart
Adult circulation sequence
 1. Exchange of gases occurs in the lungs.
Highly oxygenated blood is returned to the
heart via the pulmonary vein to the left
 2. From the left atrium the pressure of the
oxygenated blood causes the mitral valve
to open and drain the oxygenated blood
to the left ventricle.
Adult circulation sequence
 3. Non-oxygenated blood enters the right
atrium via the inferior and superior vena
 4. level of blood in the right atrium causes
the tricuspid valve to open and drain the
blood to the right ventricle.
 5. Pressure of blood in the right ventricle
causes the pulmonic valve to open and
non-oxygenated blood is directed to the
pulmonary artery then to the lungs.
Adult circulation sequence

 6. Left ventricle then pumps the

oxygenated blood that opens the aortic
valve. Blood is then directed to the
ascending and descending aorta to be
distributed in the systemic circulation.
Fetal Circulation Sequence
 1. Exchange of gases occurs in the
placenta. Oxygenated blood is carried by
the umbilical vein towards the fetal heart.
 2. The ductus venosus directs part of the
blood flow from the umbilical vein away
from the fetal liver (filtration of the blood
by the liver is unnecessary during the fetal
life) and directly to the inferior vena cava.
 3.Blood from the ductus venosus enters to
the inferior vena cava. Increase levels of
oxygenated blood flows into the right
 4.In adults, the increase pressure of the
right atrium causes the tricuspid valve to
open thus, draining the blood into the
right ventricle. However, in fetal
circulation most of the blood in the right
atrium is directed by the foramen ovale
(opening between the two atria) to the
left atrium.
Fetal Circulation Sequence

 5. The blood then flows to the left atrium

to the left ventricle going to the aorta.
Majority of the blood in the ascending
aorta goes to the brain, heart, head and
upper body.
 6.The portion of the blood that drained
into the right ventricle passes to the
pulmonary artery.
Fetal Circulation Sequence
 7. As blood enters the pulmonary artery
(carries blood to the lungs), an opening called
ductus arteriosus connects the pulmonary
artery and the descending aorta. Hence, most
of the blood will bypass the non-functioning
fetal lungs and will be distributed to the
different parts of the body. A small portion of
the oxygenated blood that enters the lungs
remains there for fetal lung maturity.
Fetal Circulation Sequence

 8. The umbilical arteries then carry the

non-oxygenated blood away from the
heart to the placenta for oxygenation
Foramen ovale Closes shortly after birth,
fuses completely in first
Ductus arteriousus Closes soon after birth,
becomes ligamentum
arteriousum in about 3
Ductus venosus Ligamentum venosum

Umbilical arteries Medial umbilical ligaments

Umbilical vein Ligamentum teres

Problem with persistence
of fetal circulation
 Patent (open) ductus arteriosus and patent
foramen ovale each characterize about 8% of
congenital heart defects.
 Both cause a mixing of oxygen-rich and oxygen-
poor blood; blood reaching tissues not fully
oxygenated. Can cause cyanosis.
 Surgical correction now available, ideally
completed around age two.
 Many of these defects go undetected until child
is at least school age.