February 7-14 is Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week.
What are congenital heart defects?
Critical congenital heart defects (also called critical CHDs or critical congenital heart disease) are the most serious congenital heart defects. Babies with critical CHDs need surgery or other treatment within the first year of life. Without treatment, critical CHDs can cause serious health problems and death.
What are examples of critical CHDs?
Critical CHDs include:
- Coarctation of the aorta (also called COA)
- Dextro-Transposition of the Great Arteries (also called d-TGA)
- Interrupted aortic arch (also called IAA)
- Pulmonary atresia (also called PA)
- Tetralogy of Fallot (also called TOF)
- Single ventricle defects
- Total anomalous pulmonary venous return (also called TAPVR)
- Truncus arteriosus
What can you do to help prevent congenital heart defects in your baby?
We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But we do know there are things that can help you increase the chances of having a healthy, full-term pregnancy and a healthy baby.
- Take folic acid. Folic acid may help prevent heart defects. Take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant.
- Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy. Being overweight during pregnancy can cause complications for you and your baby. The chance of having a baby with a birth defect, including heart defects, increases if you’re overweight or obese.
- Get a preconception checkup. A preconception checkup helps your health care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy. Talk to your provider about any medicine you take to make sure it’s safe for your baby. Get caught up on vaccinations before you get pregnant. Certain infections, like rubella, can increase the risk of having a baby with a heart defect.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar before and during pregnancy. Get your diabetes under control 3 to 6 months before you get pregnant. High blood sugar can be harmful to your baby during the first few weeks of pregnancy when his heart begins to form.
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy. Tobacco smoke and alcohol are harmful to your baby and can increase your baby’s risk for a heart defect. Tell your health care provider if you need help to quit. And don’t use electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes). These contain chemicals, like nicotine, that can harm you and your baby.
- Know your family history. Find out if you have a family history of congenital heart defects or heart disease. If you do, your provider may do a test called fetal echo to check your baby’s heart.
Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about congenital heart defects.