5. Lifestyle Factors
Research from the University of Maryland Medical Center also considers CHDs in babies dependant on certain lifestyle factors. For instance, if pregnant women take certain medications taken for health issues (i.e., to treat bipolar disorder, acne, or seizures) the incidence of CHD can increase in their babies.
In addition, smoking and drinking alcohol while pregnant have also been shown to increase the risk of delivering a baby with a CHD.
6. Diagnosing CHDs During Pregnancy
Many serious CHDs are diagnosed during pregnancy or very shortly after delivery using standard tests. For instance, fetal echo tests are often used to monitor and capture a picture of your unborn baby’s heart, between the 18- and 22-week of pregnancy.
Your doctor will typically recommend a fetal echo test if mom has an existing medical condition (i.e., a CHD, diabetes, or lupus). Your doctor may also recommend the test if either parent has a family history of heart disease or CHDs, if your baby’s heartbeat shows up as abnormal during an ultrasound, or if your baby has a chromosomal condition (i.e., turner or down syndrome).
7. CHD’s in Older Children
Often, if the CHD is not as severe heart defects, it may not be diagnosed until after delivery via a newborn screening—when hearing, heart, blood, and oxygen in blood (or pulse oximetry) tests are performed at the hospital.
In the hours and days after baby is delivered, hospital staff check and monitor the baby for signs of heart defect. If they notice an abnormal heart murmur, breathing difficulties (too fast or labored), perspiration while feeding, fatigue, changes in skin color, slow weight gain, and swelling (in the belly, legs or eye area), a CHD may be present. If your baby shows any of the above symptoms after leaving the hospital, seek immediate medical attention.