Babies with a life-threatening heart disease are more likely to survive if the disease is picked up before birth, a new study has found, but researchers say not enough women receive an antenatal diagnosis.
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Starship Child Health analysed more than 250 cases of congenital heart disease over 12 years.
During that time, one baby diagnosed before birth died, compared with 11 babies diagnosed following birth.
Lead researcher Elza Cloete said early diagnosis was essential as it could allow for arrangements to be made for the mother to give birth at specialist hospitals.
But it is technically difficult to detect the disease, Dr Cloete said.
"There will also be a small percentage that didn't receive an antenatal diagnosis because of failure to access antenatal services and to go for the midtrimester anatomy scan which is the golden opportunity to make these diagnosis," she said.
The length of time set aside for the scan, the technical difficulty of the scan, the skill of the sonographer and a high BMI in the pregnant woman makes it more challenging to gain clear images, Dr Cloetes said.
The findings highlighted the need to ensure all pregnant women can access high quality antenatal scans at the right times, regardless of where they lived, Dr Cloetes said.