According to the American Heart Association, a congenital heart defect is a defect that in inborn or existing at birth. Often a congenital heart defect is also known as congenital heart disease, although, defect seems to describe the birth defect more accurate. A congenital heart defect (CHD) happens when the heart and/or blood vessels near the heart do not form properly before birth.
In most cases, no one knows the cause of a congenital heart defects. In some cases, genetics or environment can play a role. If a women uses street drugs or drinks to much alcohol during pregnancy, she will run a higher risk of having a baby with a heart defect. Rarely, a viral infection may cause serious problems in an unborn baby. There are many factors that are currently being studied, but the truth is that we still don’t know what causes most congenital heart defects.
According to the March of Dimes, congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect and the #1 cause of birth defect related infant deaths. The American Heart Association estimates that nearly 40,000 babies are born every year with a congenital heart defect and that over 1 million Americans are living with a congenital heart defect today.
The American Heart Association says that nearly twice as many children die each year from congenital heart defects as die from all forms of childhood cancers combined! Over 91,000 life years are lost every year in the United States from congenital heart defects. Costs for inpatient surgery alone exceed $2.2 BILLION a year! However, things are improving. Overall death rates have decreased tremendously over the past few years. The outlook is much better for those born with a congenital heart defect today.
Severe defects are typically detected before or shortly after birth. Although some defects are not caught until much later in life, some babies are blue or have very low blood pressure shortly after birth. Some babies have a difficult time eating, breating, and/or gaining weight. Minor defects may show no symptoms. Minor defects are most often diagnosed on a routine medical check up. If you suspect your child of having a congenital heart defect or have ANY questions, ALWAYS consult your child’s doctor. Since every child is different, signs and symptoms may show up differently in children.