Posts Tagged ‘congenital heart defect’

The life cycle of heart defects

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Couple with nurseCongenital heart defects (CHDs) are heart conditions that are present when a baby is born. CHDs affect nearly 1 in 100 births every year in the United States and are the most common type of birth defect. In fact, today, it is estimated that more than 2 million children and adults are living with a CHD in the U.S.

How do these defects happen?

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming, often before you know you’re pregnant. Some defects are diagnosed prenatally using ultrasound and some are identified after birth. We’re not sure what causes most congenital heart defects, but certain things like diabetes, lupus, rubella, obesity and phenylketonuria may play a role. Some women have heart defects because of changes in their chromosomes or genes. If you already have a child with a CHD, you may be more likely to have another child with a CHD.

Becoming pregnant with a CHD

When a woman with a CHD becomes an adult and decides to start a family, there may be concerns about how her heart defect may impact her pregnancy. Most women who have congenital heart disease do well and have healthy pregnancies.  However, because your heart has much more work to do during pregnancy, the extra stress on your heart may be a concern. Women with a CHD have a higher risk of certain pregnancy complications such premature birth.

Preconception counseling can help. Be sure to talk to your medical team, including your cardiologist before trying to conceive, about potential complications that may arise.

Learn what you need to know before and during pregnancy, and for labor and delivery.

Do you have a CHD? Did it impact your pregnancy? Tell us your story.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org

If my first baby has a congenital heart defect, what are the chances my second baby will have one, too?

Friday, September 30th, 2016

pregnant mom with childThis is a question we received through AskUs@marchofdimes.org from a mom who is pregnant with her second baby. Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common types of birth defects and if you already have a child with a CHD, you may wonder if your second child will have the same defect. The answer, though, is not a simple “yes” or “no.”

We don’t know the cause of most congenital heart defects. For some babies, their heart defects were caused by changes in their chromosomes or genes (which are passed from parents to children). Researchers have found about 40 gene changes (also called mutations) that cause heart defects. About 30 in 100 babies (30 percent) with a heart defect also have a chromosomal condition or a genetic condition. So if you, your partner or one of your other children has a congenital heart defect, your baby may be more likely to have one, too.

But CHDs are also thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as things in your environment, your diet, any medications you may be taking, and health conditions you may have. Conditions like diabetes, lupus, rubella and even obesity can play a role in causing CHDs.

So what is your risk?

The chance of having another child with a CHD depends on many factors. It is best to meet with your health care provider and a genetic counselor who can better assess your risk. A genetic counselor is a person who is trained to help you understand how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Still have questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Understanding newborn screening results

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

newborn-screening-picture1Before your baby leaves the hospital, he or she has some special tests called newborn screening. Newborn screening checks for serious but rare conditions at birth. It includes blood, hearing and heart screening.

A baby can be born with a health condition but may not show any signs of the problem at first. If these conditions are found early with newborn screening, they can often be treated. All babies in the United States get newborn screening. But each state decides which tests are required. You can find out which conditions are tested for by your state here.

In most cases after your baby has had the newborn screening tests done, you won’t hear anymore about them. Most newborn screening results are normal and if that is the case, families are not contacted again. But you can always ask your baby’s health care provider for the results.

In rare cases when your baby’s screening results aren’t normal, you will receive a phone call about 2-3 weeks following the screening. This call can come from either the state newborn screening program or your baby’s health care provider and it usually means that your baby simply needs more testing.

A “positive” or “out-of-range” result means that the baby’s screening did indicate that the baby may be at higher risk of having one or more of the conditions included on the newborn screening panel. This does not mean that the baby has been diagnosed with a medical condition. In fact, most babies who receive positive results ultimately do not have a condition. However newborn screening tests are not diagnostic and therefore follow-up testing must be done.

If you do get one of these phone calls, don’t panic. Remember that most babies with out-of-range newborn screens are healthy and have normal follow-up test results. But it is important to get the follow-up testing done right away. One of the reasons these conditions have been chosen to be a part of newborn screening is because there is some intervention that can be done to help the baby. So the sooner you find out the results of a diagnostic test, the sooner treatment can begin, if necessary, and that is better for your baby.

Keeping your heart healthy

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

heart-healthDid you know that about 1 out of every 125 infants is born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) each year in the U.S.? CHDs are among the most common birth defects and are the leading cause of birth defect-related infant deaths.

We worry a lot about our babies and their hearts, but do you think enough about your own heart?  Since February is American Heart Month, and pregnancy puts a fair amount of physical stress on a woman, I thought it a good time to mention taking care of your own ticker before you conceive.  Not thinking about pregnancy? You still need to read this. No matter what our age, here are some things each of us can do to help improve our heart health.

Stop smoking – Even if you do smoke, you’ve got to know it’s not good for you.  But did you know smoking may make it harder for you to get pregnant? And if you smoke while you’re pregnant, your baby is at greater risk for being born prematurely or too small?

Have your doc check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  If they test high, take steps to bring them down.  Most health care providers want your BP to be at or below 120/80 and total cholesterol to be below 200.

If you have a family history of diabetes, get your blood sugar checked.  Make sure you get into a program to help keep it in control before and during pregnancy.

Eat right – Eat foods from each of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins (like chicken, fish and dried beans), grains, and milk products. Easy does it on salt and avoid foods high in fat and sugar.

Get to a good weight – If you’re not at your ideal weight (too many holiday treats?) knock off a few pounds, or gain ‘em if you need ‘em.  Exercise regularly and get fit. Exercising for 30 minutes on all or most days of the week is a good way to help maintain or lose weight, build fitness and reduce stress.

Reduce your daily stress – Pregnancy is a stressful time for many women. You may be feeling happy, sad and scared—all at the same time. It’s okay to feel like that, but doing what you can to reduce stress before pregnancy can help you better manage extra stress associated with pregnancy.  And if you’re not considering pregnancy, reducing stress can improve your quality of life in general.  Sounds good to me!

Targeted or advanced ultrasound

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

A targeted or advanced ultrasound usually follows after a standard ultrasound if the provider has seen something questionable and wants to take a closer look at it. This exam is more thorough than a standard ultrasound and can take from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Among other things, it provides a more detailed view of the baby’s head and spine and is 95% effective in diagnosing neural tube defects like spina bifida. It includes a full body scan measuring all of the long bones, identifying major organs, including the heart and brain, nose and mouth.

Doppler imaging is a technique that can measure tiny changes occurring within the body, such as the speed and direction of blood flow. Sound waves bounce off moving red blood cells and produce an image of blood flow, something a standard ultrasound cannot do. Women with high blood pressure may receive an ultrasound with Doppler imaging of the umbilical artery to see if the blood flow to the baby or placenta is as it should be or if it is being compromised in some way.

Fetal echocardiography uses ultrasound to take a closer look at a developing baby’s heart. It offers a far more detailed view of the heart and provides information about its structure and rhythm. Women who are at increased risk of having a baby with a congenital heart defect may be offered this scan. It can provide valuable information about the anatomy and function of different parts of the heart, such as the valves, and is often used to rule out a possible problem rather than find one. If a heart defect is found, further body scanning for other possible defects will be recommended. Problems with fetal heart rhythms can be treated during pregnancy but structural defects require treatment, possibly surgery, after the baby is born. Knowing about a heart defect in advance will help ensure the baby is born in a medical center equipped to perform specialized medical treatment on the baby shortly after birth.

Managing weight for baby’s sake

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

scaleYou might remember me writing about my best friend and her new baby, Milana. I can’t get over how cute Milana is!!! Now that she’s 4 months old and doing fine, my best friend is ready to hit the gym and lose the weight she gained during pregnancy. I’m hitting the gym, too – not to lose any baby weight, but rather to stay at a healthy weight for the baby I’ll have someday.

I know all about the benefits of being at a healthy weight, such as reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and more. But I was fascinated to learn that being at a healthy weight has a major impact on the health of your baby, even before pregnancy.

USA Today recently featured an article about a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study reviewed research that showed babies born to overweight, obese moms were more likely to face special health risks. Some of these risks include birth defects (spina bifida, cleft palate, heart defects), being born prematurely or being born too large (macrosomia).

Since you can’t diet once you’re pregnant (because you risk limiting nutrients your baby needs to grow), it’s very important to eat healthy and manage weight before getting pregnant. Not only will I have a better chance of having a healthy pregnancy someday, my future baby will also have a better chance of being born healthy.

RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV),  usually causes mild cold-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever) that go away on their own in about 10 days to two weeks.  It’s very contagious and most children get it by the age of two.  RSV can develop into a serious condition, however, and is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of one and in many older adults.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) states that “Premature infants, children less than 2 years of age with congenital heart or chronic lung disease, and children with compromised (weakened) immune systems due to a medical condition or medical treatment are at highest risk for severe disease. Adults with compromised immune systems and those 65 and older are also at increased risk of severe disease.”

We’re in the season for RSV infection (in the U.S. usually October to April) so it’s wise to take precautions to help prevent it.  The main thing to do is wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, don’t share cups or spoons and forks with others, and people with cold symptoms should not kiss others.

The CDC has good information about RSV symptoms and prevention as does the RSV Protection website.  Take some time to review it, especially if you have anyone in your family who falls into the higher risk category.

Smoking can hurt your baby’s heart

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Smoking early in pregnancy can increase the risk of heart defects in your baby. This is what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a recent study. The more the woman smokes, the greater the risk.

For more information and to get help for quitting, see the March of Dimes article on smoking. To learn about heart defects, read the March of Dimes fact sheet.