Congenital Heart Defect Awareness - Brought to you by CuddleBugs at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center

Mooresville, NC (February 5, 2013) – As a new or expectant mother, you want your baby to be healthy. You make sacrifices to benefit your baby — perhaps making healthier diet choices and avoiding unhealthy behaviors. But did you know that making positive lifestyle changes like these may help lower the risk of some congenital heart defects?

Congenital heart defects affect nearly 40,000 infants born in the U.S. each year. Though the cause of most congenital heart defects is unknown, there are some things women can do to improve their chances of having a healthy baby. In recognition of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week from Feb. 7-14, CuddleBugs at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center would like to share some information to benefit you and your baby.

What are congenital heart defects?

Congenital heart defects are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure and functioning of a baby’s heart, such as how blood flows through the heart to the rest of the body. They can vary from mild to severe — for example a mild defect may be a small hole between the chambers of the heart, and a severe case may be poorly formed or missing structures of the heart.

Some congenital heart defects are due to changes in the baby’s genes or chromosomes. They are also thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other risk factors such as exposure to things in the environment, or the mother’s diet or medication use.

How are they treated?

Treatment depends on the type and severity of the problem. Some cases may improve without treatment, some can be treated with medication, and others may require one or more surgeries to repair the heart or blood vessels. In some instances, the condition may be treated using minimally invasive cardiac catheterization. During this procedure, a long tube — or catheter — is threaded through the blood vessels into the heart where a doctor can diagnose and repair the problem.

Steps for a healthy pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Birth Defects Prevention Study has found that women who are obese, have diabetes, or smoke during pregnancy increase their chances of having a baby born with a heart defect. These are some steps you can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
  • Prevent infections by keeping your hands clean and washing with soap and water.
  • See a health care professional regularly, and discuss medical problems and medicines you take.
  • Find out what substances can be harmful to a developing baby and avoid them.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, and unpasteurized (raw) milk products.

A woman can improve her chances for a healthy pregnancy by getting early prenatal care and living a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, taking folic acid, controlling diabetes and avoiding smoking all contribute to better health for mom and baby.

Whether you’re preparing for pregnancy or are already expecting, incorporate these healthy habits to keep you and your baby healthy.

About CuddleBugs

CuddleBugs is a free program designed to provide answers to new and expectant moms from the earliest stages of pregnancy through post-delivery – including guidance for newborn care. For more information about CuddleBugs, visit www.CuddleBugsBaby.com.

About Lake Norman Regional Medical Center

Lake Norman Regional Medical Center offers comprehensive medical care to individuals throughout the greater Lake Norman region. Located just off I-77 at Exit 33, the Mooresville medical campus offers complete specialty services from 24-hour emergency medicine and maternity to oncology and advanced surgical services. 

Remember that this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information and facilitate conversations with your physician that will benefit your health.