Congenital heart disease (CHD) is one of the more common congenital conditions diagnosed in infants. The condition can be treated and the infant and lead a normal healthy life, but early detection improves overall outlook and outcome. However, researchers have recently found that diagnosing CHD during pregnancy has a negative impact on the pregnant woman, including increased risk of depression, anxiety and stress. 

When CHD is diagnosed in utero pregnant women and healthcare providers haveChild's Heartmore time to prepare for the health needs of the infant. Education plays a key role in treatment, especially during the first weeks and months of life, but a study completed by doctors from the Fetal Heart Program at Philadelphia's Children's Hospital shows pregnant woman are given more than time to prepare. They are given an immense amount of stress that evolves into depression and other mental conditions. Depression is directly linked with pregnancy complications, including increased risk of severe depression after birth and suicide. 

Women reported traumatic stress, anxiety and depression as three of the mental side effects of the CHD diagnosis. Questionnaires were filled out between two and four weeks after the initial diagnosis, which is how feelings were reported. However, the study only surveyed about 60 women. Researchers reported depression, anxiety and stress in 22%, 31% and 39% of the women, respectively, but there is no mention of overlap. Did some of the women experience more than one emotional change or were all the changes independently reported?

There is some thought that the emotional outcome was linked to the fact that CHD changed the pregnancy, not that CHD was a serious medical condition. Many women imagine pregnancy as this beautiful time filled with baby kicks and belly rubs, but the reality is that not all pregnancies are perfect and complications can develop. It would be interesting to study if the same emotional outcomes were associated with other fetal diagnosis. 

Source: Jack Rychik, MD, et al. Fetal Heart Program. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. September 10, 2012. 

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