The term CHD is used to describe any type of birth defect that affects the heart’s ability to function properly. Congenital means that the disease is present from birth. Below is an overview of the causes of the defects, symptoms, treatment process, and lives of CHD patients.

Causes of CHDs

Unfortunately, the causes of most heart defect in newborns are yet to be fully understood. As such, a good portion of congenital heart disease charity funds go to research and capacity building. That said, there are known causes of some heart defects in children. Such causes include:

Down’s syndrome

Studies show that up to 47% of Down’s syndrome patients have a heart defect, though, it is still unclear how the two conditions correlate. The most common types of CHDs in kids with Down’s syndrome include:

  • Atrioventricular septal defect (ASD) – holes between the chambers of the heart and malformed valves controlling blood flow between the chambers.
  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)- a fetal blood vessel fails to close.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)- a combination of 4 congenital heart diseases, causing deoxygenated blood to move from the heart to the rest of the system.

Certain medications

Studies also point to some types of medication being responsible for heart defects in newborns. A childrens heart charitywill typically set asidefunds for prenatal awareness for mothers who are taking medication for seizures, acne, and pain.

In this regard, doctors may advise that you keep off medication during the first trimester and after the 29th week. Medicine that has been associated with congenital heart diseases include benzodiazepines, topical retinoids, isotretinoin, and ibuprofen.   

Smoking or drinking during pregnancy

A childrens heart charity will also spread awareness about the detrimental effects of excessive drinking and smoking during pregnancy. This destructive behavior can poison the tissue and organs of the fetus. It is also common for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) to also suffer from atrial septal defect (ASD).   

Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Diseases

Different types of CHDs have different symptoms. That said, since the general effect of the diseases is weakened heart function, most signs are common across all CHDs.

These symptoms are things that general practitioners are trained to be on the lookout for in all kids they examine. Before your child goes through specialized tests under a pediatric cardiologist, below are some general indicators of a congenital heart disease:

  • Rapid breathing.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Persistent shortness of breath.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Swelling of the legs, around the eyes, tummy, and feet.
  • Cyanosis (bluish or grayish color of the skin).

When the condition is severe, symptoms develop right after birth and the diagnosis is usually fast. However, mild forms of CHD may not manifest until later in life, sometimes in early adulthood.

To be on the safer side, if your child shows a combination of the symptoms, it’s best to visit a pediatrician or pediatric cardiologist near you for specialized tests. If you struggle to gain access to treatment, contact a congenital heart disease charity near you for help.