When the month of February arrives, many people think of Valentine’s Day hearts and red flowers. February is also a time to raise awareness about another heart topic – congenital heart defects (CHDs).
Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Congenital heart defects are heart conditions that are present at birth. We’re not sure what causes most CHDs, but these defects can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works.
CHDs are the most common types of birth defects. Nearly 1 in 100 babies (about 1 percent or 40,000 babies) is born with a heart defect in the United States each year. They may be diagnosed before your baby is born, or soon after birth. Some CHDs are diagnosed much later in life.
There are different kinds of CHDs and their symptoms can be mild to severe. Treatment for each type of CHD depends on the heart defect. The seven most severe forms of CHD are called Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life.
Although the causes of most CHDs are not yet fully understood, certain medical conditions may play a role, such as diabetes, lupus, rubella, phenyletonuria (PKU) if not following the special diet, and being very overweight during pregnancy.
To become familiar with the different kinds of CHDs, possible causes, screenings and treatments, see our article.
As you send out a Valentine card or share in the spirit of love this week, consider learning and raising awareness about congenital heart defects. This condition affects the hearts of our smallest Valentines.
For information on where to find support and resources for your baby, please email or text us at AskUs@Marchofdimes.org