5 Ways To Reduce Risk Of Congenital Heart Defects
Whether you’re a first-time parent or a veteran, pregnancy can be scary. It’s a seemingly endless stream of physician visits, check-ups, ultrasounds and more. You’re also on-edge and waiting to hear if your unborn child is healthy at almost every turn. Every expecting mother waits patiently and prays to hear signs of good health. Unfortunately, Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are on the rise. Do you know the signs and best ways to reduce the risks of CHDs?
Here are 5 ways expecting parents can reduce their child’s risk of congenital heart defects.
What Are Congenital Heart Defects?
During development in the womb, infants are busy forming vital organs, body parts and bodily infrastructure. These are all critical to the well-being of every child. Sometimes this development goes unfinished, and defects are created instead. Some defects are more serious than others.
Congenital heart defects are seen when the heart or the blood vessels nearby don’t develop normally before birth.
- Symptoms can include:
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Blue tinge to the skin or lips
- Extreme fatigue
- Swelling of the legs, stomach or around the eyes
Nearly 40,000 births per year in the United States are affected by CHDs. How can parents help reduce their risk of seeing a congenital heart defect in their children?
1. Receive Proper Prenatal Care
Proper prenatal care creates a healthy foundation for both you and your child. Your OB/GYN will ensure expecting mothers maintain their own health, as well as monitor for abnormalities within the womb. You can expect discussions about current medications you may be taking, multivitamin supplements that should be added in your diet (such as folic acid), as well as routine testing for health check-ups.
Typical prenatal care schedules typically look like this:
- Every 4-6 weeks within the first 32 weeks
- Every 2-3 weeks within the 32nd and 37th weeks
- Weekly from week 37 until delivery
2. Manage Your Blood Sugar
During pregnancy, your blood sugar levels are more vulnerable, and previously non-diabetic women can experience symptoms. Approximately 9 in 100 women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, potentially leading to complications such as:
- Birth defects
- Infants born larger than average, causing potential birth injuries
- Dangerously low blood sugar levels at birth
3. Avoid Harmful Substances
Harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs can increase the risk of:
- Underweight infants
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Health complications later in life
- Immediate withdrawal symptoms at birth
You can reduce your child’s chances of experiencing complications by avoiding harmful substances personally and second-hand.
4. Stay Up-To-Date On Vaccinations
Keeping up to date on your vaccinations can make a huge difference in your child’s life! Rubella can put infants at risk of several life-long complications, such as:
- Heart defects
- Intellectual disabilities
The CDC recommends checking your vaccination status prior to getting pregnant, and contacting your primary care physician immediately if you are diagnosed with or exposed to rubella!
5. Make Sure Your Medications Are Safe
Certain medications can cause complications during pregnancy, and it may be best to find other treatment options. Within the first 3 months of pregnancy, developing infants are particularly vulnerable while organs form.
While it’s generally safe for pregnant mothers to talk medications like acetaminophen and some antibiotics, other common OTC and prescription medications can be dangerous. Please consult with your primary physician to determine what medications may be safe.
Comanche County Memorial Hospital takes women’s health seriously, and our team of expert OB/GYNs would love to help you on your pregnancy journey. Our also hospital features the first and only neonatal intensive care unit in southwest Oklahoma.
If you are an expecting mother, let’s take the first steps towards ensuring your child’s success together. Visit our Women’s Health services to learn more.
For our Heart & Vascular services, you can visit our Heart Center’s page.
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Standford Children’s Hospital.