Pregnancy is an exciting time for expecting parents. As due dates draw closer, expecting parents’ anticipation and to-do lists grow. With nurseries to design, baby books to read and clothes and toys to buy, it can be easy for parents to overlook prenatal care. But prenatal care is vital, as it not only monitors Mom’s health, but also keeps a watchful eye on the child growing inside her.
Expecting parents may not know what to expect during pregnancy well visits. Updates on the health of mom and her baby are the norm, and doctors also may share information about birth defects. No parent wants to imagine their unborn child being diagnosed with birth defects, but the American Heart Association notes that minor defects rarely produce symptoms, and many such defects can be corrected before birth or shortly after.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects. Recognizing that and making an effort to understand these particular types of defects can calm expecting parents’ anxieties and better equip them to handle a congenital heart defect diagnosis.
What are congenital heart defects?
Congenital heart defects, or CHDs, can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and how it functions. For example, a CHD may affect how blood flows through the heart and out to the rest of the body. Some CHDs are considered mild, while others are classified as severe.
How many babies are born with heart defects?
The CDC notes that CHDs affect nearly 1% of births in the U.S. each year. Roughly one in four of those babies is born with a critical CHD, the treatment of which requires surgery or other procedures in the first year of life.
What causes CHDs?
According to the CDC, the causes of CHDs among most babies are unknown, though some theorize that CHDs are caused by a combination of genes and other factors. Those additional factors may include the mother’s diet or her medication use during pregnancy.
Mothers’ preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have been linked to heart defects in babies. Smoking during pregnancy also has been linked to heart defects.
What are the symptoms of CHDs?
The type and severity of CHDs may dictate the symptoms. The CCHA notes that there are more than 40 types of CHDs, some of which may produce no symptoms at all, which only further underscores the importance of prenatal and postnatal care. If a CHD is not diagnosed prior to a child being born, parents who recognize any of these potential CHD symptoms should report them to their child’s pediatrician immediately:
Blue-tinted nails or lips
Fast or troubled breathing
Tiredness when feeding
What is the prognosis for children diagnosed with CHD?
The CCHA notes that 60 years ago only about 20% of children diagnosed with a CHD survived to adulthood. Since then, that figure has improved to roughly 90%.
A CHD diagnosis can be troubling for expecting parents. But learning how to recognize and potentially prevent them can calm parents’ nerves. (MC)