When a mother is pregnant, her greatest concern is that her child be born healthy. When I was pregnant, I followed every rule and regulation of pregnancy. I worked hard to keep myself healthy, carefully avoided ingesting any potentially harmful products and did not engage in risky behavior that might endanger my unborn baby. But sometimes you do everything right and things still go wrong.
I have a friend who inexplicably lost twins at full term a few years ago. Today, she is 28 weeks pregnant with a baby girl who she has learned has a congenital heart defect. Nobody knows why this has happened, she only knows that she needs to be informed and prepared for what comes next: caring for a newborn who will have to be birthed too soon and will be born with a congenital heart defect (CHD).
A congenital birth defect is a defect that’s present at birth in either the structure of the interior walls of the heart, the valves inside the heart, or the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart or body. Many types of heart defects exist, most of which either obstruct blood flow in the heart or vessels near it, or cause blood to flow through the heart in an abnormal pattern. Other defects, such as long QT syndrome, affect the heart’s rhythm. These defects range in severity from those that are minor and cause no symptoms to those that are life-threatening. These defects often require special medical care soon after birth and throughout the child’s entire lifetime.
The diagnosis and treatment of complex heart defects has greatly improved over the past few decades. As a result, almost all children who have complex heart defects survive to adulthood and can live active lives. However, heart defects remain among the most common types of birth defects and are the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths.
I know my friend and her baby have a long road ahead of them, but hopefully with the advances in the treatment of congenital heart defects in the past few years, her baby will be okay and she will finally get to hold a child of her own in her arms.
Sources: heart.org and nih.gov