Congenital Heart Disease in infants and children is an abnormality in the heart's anatomy that occurs very early in the baby's gestation during fetal development. They are called "congenital" because they originate from the moment the heart is formed inside the uterus, and they are born with those anomalies.
When a Congenital Heart Disease is diagnosed in pregnancy, it must be identified what type of abnormality it is, how this will affect the baby's life, if it has a definitive solution through surgery or if it only involves some treatment to soften its effects.
Thanks to the technological advances that allow us to diagnose from mild lesions in the baby's heart to more cardiac severe alterations from the first trimester of gestation through a Fetal Echocardiography.
This way, your OB/GYN Doctor, a Pediatric Cardiologist, and other specialists involved can be prepared for the time of birth in advance of possible complications that may arise due to your baby's condition.
Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease:
The most common symptoms in severe Congenital Heart Disease usually become more evident during the first few months of life:
Pale or bluish skin color
Swelling in the abdomen, legs, and around the eyes
Breathing difficulties and sweating during feeding
Insufficient weight gain
Congenital heart disease that is less severe can be diagnosed until the child is older because the symptoms are not as noticeable as in severe congenital heart disease:
Rapid fatigue from exercise or any physical activity
Shortness of breath during exercise or physical activity
Swelling of the feet, ankles, or hands
Fainting after physical activity
To date, there is no known single cause that causes most of the Congenital Heart Disease in the development of the baby; however, there are certain risk factors that can influence as they are:
Diabetes: Keeping careful control of your diabetes before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of your baby having a congenital heart defect
Rubella: Getting rubella during pregnancy can be dangerous for your baby's development because it can trigger problems in the formation of the heart
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy: Try to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy so that the risks of Congenital Heart Disease do not increase
Genetics: Sometimes the hereditary factor can be related to heart conditions
Smoking during pregnancy
Medication: Some medications are prohibited during pregnancy because they can cause congenital disabilities
Types of Congenital Heart Diseases:
Many Congenital Heart Diseases range from mild to severe, some of them are:
Holes in the heart
Abnormal blood vessels
Obstructions in the blood flow
Heart Valve Anomalies
An incomplete development in the formation of the heart
Combination of heart abnormalities
Some children with minor congenital heart disease may not require any treatment without health risks; in other infants, it is serious and requires surgery or treatment with medication. Depending on the type of Congenital Heart Disease your child has, treatment may vary between:
Cardiac catheterization procedures: some abnormalities of the heart can be repaired without surgery on the chest or the child/baby's heart. With catheterization techniques, defects such as holes in the heart can be repaired.
Medication: Minor congenital heart diseases (those detected in childhood or adulthood) can be treated with medicines that optimally help the heart function. Also, some medications may be prescribed to help with irregular heartbeats (Arrhythmias).
Open Heart Surgery: Open Heart Surgery can repair some Congenital Heart Disease.
Minimally invasive heart surgery: Another option for some abnormalities is this type of surgery. It is not necessary to open the chest to access the heart, but through small incisions between the ribs, the heart defect can be repaired.
Heart transplant: When Congenital Heart Disease is severe and has no solution with conventional treatment, a heart transplant is an option.
Serious heart abnormalities are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or in the first few months after birth. Consult your doctor if you think your baby has any of the symptoms listed here or risk factors.
If your child has less severe Congenital Heart Disease symptoms as he or she grows, see your doctor.
As parents, being well informed about your child's heart abnormality is fundamental. This way, you will know how to identify risk factors, care to follow, and teach your child how to adapt to his or her condition to lead like a normal and healthy lifestyle as possible.
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