Some infants are born with congenital heart defects also known as congenital heart disease or CHD. These conditions are not a pregnancy complication, per se, but more of a complication of the fetus. During the time when the heart was developing in utero, something went wrong and the heart did not develop correctly. Most obstetricians and heart specialists cannot explain completeky why congenital heart disease occurs, though there are some common causes or risk factors that may contribute to the likelihood of CHD.
Causes and Your Pregnancy
Parents are in no way responsible for CHD – plain and simple. There are no changes that could have been made before or during pregnancy to alter the development of the heart. With that said, there are risk factors that may increase the chance of having an infant with congenital heart disease. These include:
- Heredity: Congenital heart defects appear to be hereditary. Parents with CHD are more likely to have children with CHD. It is rare for more than one child born in the same family to have the condition.
- Genetics: Certain chromosomal defects, like Down syndrome, increase the risk of congenital heart disease.
Research on Causes of Congenital Heart Disease
Aside from genetic alterations and heredity, doctors and researchers have no idea what causes CHD. A child can be born with a congenital heart defect into a family with a clean family history, in terms of heart disease. That initial cause is what researchers are looking for to this day.
Signs and Symptoms of CHD
If the condition is not immediately recognizable, as is the case with simpler forms of CHD, symptoms may be the first indication of a problem. Common symptoms of a congenital heart defect may include:
- Quick, shallow breathing
- Blue tint to lips, mouth, skin and fingers
- Lack of energy
- Impaired blood circulation
- As children age, CHD may cause increased fatigue during exercise and edema.
You may notice that this list does not include common symptoms of other heart conditions like chest pains or a feeling of pressure on the chest. Congenital heart defects affect blood flow and thus the symptoms of the condition are not the same as those associated with heart attack, stroke and other heart problems.
Congenital Heart Disease is not a condition that can be predicted, so parents should not feel guilty is an infant or child is diagnosed with a form of CHD.