fetal circulation

Last reviewed 08/2021

The fetal circulation functions to supply nutrients and oxygen and remove excretory products via the placenta. The vessels supplying oxygenated blood from the placenta are the umbilical veins. Those returning deoxygenated blood are the umbilical arteries.

The normal circuit is considered in the submenu in terms of the passage of blood from the:

  • placenta through the liver
  • periphery through the heart

The presence of three vessels which bypass longer routes or alternative vascular beds ensures that the first branches of the aorta receive relatively well-oxygenated blood. These shunts are the ductus venosus of the liver and the foramen ovale and ductus arteriosus of the heart.