This year the World Heart Federation is focusing on creating heart-healthy environments for you and your family. World Heart Day raises awareness of maintaining a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and tobacco use, and increasing physical activity.
World Heart Day is a good time to think about one of the most common birth defects – congenital heart defects. It affects 1 in 100 babies every year. These heart defects can affect the heart’s structure, how it works, or both.
Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming. Severe congenital heart defects are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth. Less severe heart defects often aren’t diagnosed until children are older.
What can you do?
If you are trying to become pregnant or you are currently pregnant:
• Do not smoke
• Do not drink alcohol
• Talk to your provider about any medicine you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine, herbal products and supplements
• Maintain a healthy diet and exercise 30 minutes a day if you can
• Go to all your prenatal visits
After birth your baby may be tested for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) as part of newborn screening before he leaves the hospital. All states require newborn screening, but not all require screening for CCHD. You can ask your provider if your state tests for CCHD or click here to see what your state covers.
After birth, signs and symptoms of heart defects can include:
• Fast breathing
• Gray or blue skin coloring
• Fatigue (feeling tired all of the time)
• Slow weight gain
• Swollen belly, legs or puffiness around the eyes
• Trouble breathing while feeding
• Sweating, especially while feeding
• Abnormal heart murmur (extra or abnormal sounds heard during a heartbeat)
If you see any of these signs, call your baby’s health care provider right away. For more information about congenital heart defects visit our website.
If you have questions, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
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