The What, Why, and How of Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) are one of the most common defects that a child is born with. Also, these are one of those diseases which are difficult to cure. And therefore, are life-threatening.  The good news is that with advancing medical care and technology, many people born with a Congenital Heart Defect can live healthier and longer lives. Before we get to how it can be diagnosed and treated, let us first understand what a congenital heart defect is.

What are Congenital Heart Defects?

Also known as Congenital Heart Disease, a Congenital Heart Defect is a common defect that affects a child right from his/her birth. Research suggests that of all the children born annually in the United States, about 40k suffer from congenital heart defect.

The defect is a structural abnormality which can affect the walls, valves, or blood vessels in the baby’s heart. It is usually a result of incomplete development of the unborn’s heart during pregnancy.

Some types of Congenital Heart Defects include

  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Pulmonary Atresia
  • Double-outlet Right Ventricle
  • Ebstein Anomaly
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
  • Single Ventricle
  • Ventricular Septal Defect

What are the Symptoms?

The common signs and symptoms to detect a Congenital Heart Defect in an infant are

  • Blue-tinted toes, fingers, nails, and lips.
  • Faster breathing
  • Difficulty in feeding the child
  • Low weight during birth
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue

According to the American Heart Association, Ventricular Septal Defect is the most common of all Congenital Heart Defects. The defect is observed as holes in the lower chamber of the child’s heart. A symptom of such a defect is a heart murmur. In case you don’t know, a heart murmur is an additional sound that can be heard with the stethoscope while listening to the heartbeat.

Large-sized holes increase the chances of congestive heart failure in the infant. A Ventricular Septal Defect further affects the lungs due to which symptoms like faster breathing, sweating and high heart rates are visible.

Why does CHD Happen?

Usually, the cause of a congenital heart defect is seen to be genetic. If anyone amongst the old people in your house or your ancestors had such a defect, your child might likely have too. While this is an uncontrollable factor, various other factors are in our control. If taken care of, these certain things can help us avoid the trauma of a Congenital Heart Defect for us and our child.

These controllable factors have to do how an expecting mother takes care of herself during pregnancy. If she does not avoid any of the following, there is a high chance for her baby to develop a CHD.

  • Intake of illegal drugs
  • Consumption of alcohol or tobacco
  • Medications that might cause hindrance in the child’s development

Other factors like pre-existing obesity and diabetes in the mother can also harm the child and encourage the occurrence of a defect.


How to prevent it?

It is only in the hands of an expecting mother to prevent a Congenital Heart Defect in her baby if it does not run into her family.

  • Get regular check-ups done during pregnancy
  • Get a Fetal Echocardiogram test done
  • Maintain normal blood sugar levels
  • Have a healthy weight before and during pregnancy
  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol
  • Avoid drugs of any sort.
  • Do not smoke during pregnancy

How is a CHD diagnosed?

The first step of diagnosis should begin when the child is only a developing fetus. This can be done with the help of a Fetal Echocardiogram. It is a type of ultrasound. During the procedure, the doctor tries to capture the development of the child’s heart. The development will inform whether there are chances of any defects or not.

The objective is to diagnose the disease early for high chances of successful treatment. So, you should get your baby checked after the delivery as well. If all is good, you can let the child grow happily, but make sure to look out for symptoms, in case the child develops a Congenital Heart Defect in later years of life. In adults, you need to check for signs like chest pain, dizziness, fatigue etc.

How is a CHD treated?

For the treatment, various approaches can be applied. Medications are the most common one. Your child may not have a serious defect and may get treated without the need for any surgery.

If medications don’t work, procedures like using a Catheter or implantation of heart devices may help. In the worst scenario, open-heart surgery or heart transplant might be required.

The Bottom Line

Since congenital heart defect is making millions of people suffer today, it is essential to get yourself and your child regularly checked. Especially, if you are about to give birth to a baby.

The Angel Healthcare has a panel of specialists that can help you in the diagnosis, and if required, they will treat you with the best solution of the medical industry. Remember, an early diagnosis can reduce the risk at tenfold extent. So, call us and book a consultation today!

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