Merck Manual

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Normal Circulation in a Fetus
Normal Circulation in a Fetus

Blood flow through the heart in a fetus differs from that in children and adults. In children and adults, blood picks up oxygen in the lungs. But in a fetus, the blood that enters the heart already contains oxygen, supplied from the mother by the placenta. Only a small amount of blood goes through the lungs (which do not contain air). The rest of the blood bypasses the lungs through two structures:

  • The foramen ovale, a hole between the right and left atria

  • The ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel that connects the pulmonary artery and the aorta

Normally, these two structures close soon after birth.

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Overview of Heart Defects