Children who are diagnosed with a congenital heart defect are born with this condition and it occurs due to an abnormal development of the heart. Some types of congenital heart defects are mild and they will repair on their own as the child grows older.
Other types of heart defects are very serious and medical treatment is necessary soon after birth. It is theorized that heart defects begin to emerge as the heart starts to develop, which is when a fetus is at six weeks. It is believed that certain medications that are taken while pregnant, various health conditions and hereditary factors may contribute to congenital heart defects.
When babies are born with serious heart defects, the symptoms are noticeable within a few months after the child is born.
These symptoms include a skin tone with a blue or gray tint, lower than normal blood pressure, a swollen abdomen or legs, being short of breath while eating and fast breathing. Children who have milder forms of heart defects often do not exhibit any symptoms until they are older. When they do start showing signs of a heart defect they will quickly get tired and have shortness of breath when engaging in a physical activity. They may also have swollen feet, ankles or hands.
Congenital heart defects are typically caused by development during the first six weeks of pregnancy, although there is no consensus on what the exact causes of this condition are. What is known is that that the defects are usually in place in the first trimester and can be detected by ultrasound. Potential causes include genetics, medical conditions of the mother, side effects from medication and environmental factors. Smoking during pregnancy has also been indicated as significantly raising the risks of children developing this condition in utero. While the exact causes are not firmly known, these risk factors are linked to instances of heart defects in children with a strong enough correlation to use them in diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
Treatments for congenital heart defects in children will vary depending on the type of issue with the heart. Some children will not need any form of treatment but they do need to have regular cardiologist appointments for continual observation.
Mild heart defects are often treated successfully with various medications, such as beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Open heart surgeries and cardiac catheterizations are often recommended to repair heart defects. Catheterizations are performed without making an incision in the chest. If the heart defect cannot be repaired with medications or surgery, a heart transplant is the last option for treatment.
Because of the unknown status of the exact causes of congenital heart defects, in some cases, prevention may be impossible. However, a reduction of the risk of fatality from these conditions can be accomplished by taking the following actions.
Infections, especially rubella (German measles) during pregnancy may affect the heart development of a baby during pregnancy. Getting a vaccine shot before conception lowers this risk considerably.
Mothers who suffer from diabetes or other blood sugar disorders are at an increased risk of affecting the heart health of their children. Expectant mothers should keep their blood sugar as level as possible. If the condition requires medication, risks to pregnancy should be discussed with a physician in case there may be harmful side effects. Alternatives may be available.
There are also a few activities that should be avoided by expectant mothers to help reduce the risk of their child having a congenital heart defect.