Fetal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A fetal MRI scan is a non-invasive imaging method that produces images of a baby in utero.

Fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces images of an unborn baby (fetus) inside the mother’s womb. This method uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the fetal brain but does not expose the baby to radiation. 

When Is Fetal MRI Necessary?

Fetal magnetic resonance imaging may be recommended if a physician identifies a potential abnormality during a routine pregnancy ultrasound exam, as MRI images are clearer and more comprehensive than ultrasound images. Often, a fetal MRI scan is ordered to evaluate fetal brain development. Some physicians may encourage fetal MRI if a mother has a family history of neurodevelopmental disorders.

What Does Fetal MRI Involve?

Fetal magnetic resonance imaging is a simple outpatient procedure. Here’s what it involves:

  • The patient lies down on her back (if possible) on the MRI table. Some women prefer to lie on their side.
  • As the scan begins, the patient is encouraged to relax and breathe regularly. Some women listen to music during the procedure.
  • Toward the end of the scan, the MRI technician may ask the patient to hold her breath for a few seconds.

Images produced by fetal MRI are carefully evaluated by a radiologist, who will discuss the results with the patient’s obstetrician or maternal-fetal specialist and provide a report to the patient.

What Should I Expect During Fetal MRI?

A fetal magnetic resonance imaging scan is painless and usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Keep in mind that the machine may make loud noises as it captures images. Prior to the procedure, you’ll be advised to avoid wearing jewelry or other accessories made of metal. You may also be asked to refrain from drinking beverages with caffeine or sugar a few hours before the test. There are no known risks associated with fetal MRI for the mother or baby, although the close quarters of the MRI machine may make some women feel uncomfortable.

Is Fetal MRI Effective?

Fetal magnetic resonance imaging is widely recognized as a safe, efficient and effective method of identifying potential abnormalities in unborn babies. At Tampa General Hospital, our team of women’s and fetal health experts provides a complete spectrum of specialized diagnostics, including pregnancy ultrasounds, fetal MRI scans, fetal echocardiographs and other important tests.