February 8, 2011

What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know and Ask

As a pregnant women we stress over many things during our pregnancy.  We worry about our unborn child.  We take our prenatal vitamins, we change our dietary habits, we worry if the baby kicks too much or not enough, we worry our bellies may be too big or too small for our babies gestational age. We've heard of Down Syndrome, we've heard of Spina Bifida, yet very few, almost none of us have heard of America's #1 birth defect ~ Congenital Heart Defects {CHD}

We fell head over heals in love over the sound of our babies heart beat.  And we anxiously await to 'see' our baby for the first time at out 20 week ultrasound appointment.  We blissfully enter our doctors office full of anticipation over the sex of our unborn child or just to meet the little bean on screen.  Yet we are sadly ignorant of very important facts.  Fact that can save our babies life, if we only knew.   

  • Congenital heart defects are America’s #1 birth defect. Nearly one of every 125 babies is born with a CHD (almost 1% of all children born each year!).

  • Congenital heart defects are the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths. 1 in 3 children who die from a birth defect have a congenital heart defect.

  • This year almost 40,000 babies will be born with a congenital heart defect.

  • In the U.S. twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined. Yet funding for research of pediatric cancer is 5 times greater.

  • From 1993 to 2003 death rates for congenital heart defects have declined by 31% due to advances made through research!

  • There is not yet a preventative cure for any type of congenital heart defect.

  • Of every dollar the government spends on medical funding only a fraction of a penny is directed toward congenital heart defect research.

So what can you do?

In a recent health article it was stated that most of the time, CHD is overlooked during the 20-week ultra sound. Thankfully, this was not the case in our situation.  And it allowed us needed time to research and prepare.  Yet, I've heard of many stories where parents are completely blindsided by the news their baby has a congenital heart defect.  

Dr. Nina Gotteiner, a fetal/pediatric cardiologist at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital provides imperative information and a list of proactive questions that every expecting parent should know. She says: "By asking these questions, expecting parents and their doctor can proactively identify heart issues before birth, and as a team, work together to prepare for any potential heart issues that may arise after birth."  Here are the recommendations:

 Top five questions expecting parents should ask their doctor during the 20-week ultrasound exam:

1.Do you see 4 chambers?

2.Do you look at the arteries or outflow tracks as part of your scan? *Note: Extremely important to focus on artery views. CHD often missed if only a standard “chamber view” is performed.

3.Are the heart and stomach in correct positions? Both organs should lay on the left side of the fetus.

4.Is the heart rate normal? Is the heart rate too slow (less than 100 beats per minute), too fast (over 200 beats per minute), or irregular? *Note: A normal heart rate range for a fetus is 120-180 beats per minute.

5.Is the heart function normal? Does the muscle work normally? Is everything hooked-up correctly?

Unfortunately, some heart defects go undetected at birth and newborns leave the hospital with a life threatening condition. Often times it remains undetected until it is too late and an infant is in heart failure or worse.  You can read about Cora's Story a beautiful newborn baby girl who passed away in her mother's arms while breastfeeding due to an undiagnosed heart defect. Yet, a simple, painless and affordable test called Pulse Oximetry Screening performed on a newborn hours after birth could have saved her life.

A normal blood oxygen reading is somewhere between 97 – 100%, however within the first 24 hours of life these levels may vary considerably, therefore some physicians believe the test should not be performed until the baby is at least 24 hours old to remove the likelihood of an inaccurate reading. And although, not all forms of CHD can be detected through pulse oxymetry check, it is a step in the right direction.

CHD is real.  It can affect any of our children and come into our life when we least expect.  I was blisffuly unaware of these important facts until CHD rocked my world.  But knowledge is power.  Ask the right questions and be an advocate for your babies health.       

1 comment:

  1. This is a GREAT post!! In fact, I put a link in my post today =) I have a lot of pregnant friends right now who are always asking me what they can do to check their child...Thank you for posting!!


You Might Also Enjoy

Blogger WidgetsRecent Posts Widget for Blogger