Heart Babies
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What are Heart Babies?

Babies born with a flaw in their heart, usually congenital heart defects are termed as heart babies. It is estimated that every eight out of 1000 babies is born with such defects. Some of these defects are like a small hole between the heart chambers, complex misconfiguration of blood vessels and other heart and circulation problems. Unfortunately, ultrasounds usually are not able to detect these defects before birth. However, another technique called echocardiography can help in detection of such defects before birth.

There are 35 types of congenital heart defects, but the main categories are: Holes in the heart, obstructed blood flow, abnormal blood vessels, valve abnormalities and a combination of all these defects. Holes in the walls of the heart chambers result in the mixing of oxygen-rich blood and the oxygen-poor blood. Thus this results in the circulation of the oxygen-poor blood throughout the body leading to the shortage of the required amount of oxygen in the body tissues.

When vessels become narrowed, the heart needs to work extra hard in order to pump the blood, thus leading to the defect of obstruction in the blood flow. This leads to the thickening and expansion of the heart muscles. Incorrectly formed blood vessels, malfunction of blood vessels are also a form of heart disease. At times, some infants develop a combination of defects such as a hole in ventricular septum, narrowed passage between right ventricle and pulmonary artery, connection shift of aorta to the heart and muscle thickening.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

The heart defects can start showing symptoms within a few days of birth of your babies. The skin of the baby might start to lose its healthy sheen, turning pale or gray or blue. The legs, abdomen or area around the eye may swell, shortness of breath in baby while feeding, which might lead to the poor health and poor weight gain in the bay, fatigue etc, are all the symptoms pointing to the heart disease in a baby.

Causes of Heart Disease

Most of these heart defects arise during the development of heart. The actual cause of these defects are unknown, however certain environmental and genetic factors are known to have an effect on the development of heart. Some such factors are, rubella (during pregnancy this may lead to fatal errors in development of the baby’s heart), diabetes (when mother‘s suffering from this condition, it might hinder the fetus‘s heart development), medications (intake of certain medicines like isotretinoin, lithium etc result in causing few birth defects in the baby), alcohol, heredity or genetic conditions (faulty genes may run in family causing certain associated birth defects) may also hinder the development of the heart.

How Can Heart Disorders be Diagnosed?

Only about 25% of the cases can be detected before birth. After about 19 weeks of gestation, the child heart does not seem to develop much and beats at a much faster rate than normal. In order to see this, one needs to perform a good quality ultrasound. Colour flow Doppler is a new technology which can help detect the movement of the blood cells while also highlighting the abnormal areas indicating the circulation problems.

Treatment for The Heart Disease

Specialist foetal medicine units help in screening the heart and circulation of the fetus with the help of foetal echocardiography. Thus, this helps for the specialists to provide the required and best care needed to the fetus and the baby thereafter. A surgery can be done if necessary and provided the prenatal care required for this.

Advice

There are developments happening in which the treatments to open the valves safely are being developed. Early detection will help in the safe management of the disorder before and after the birth enabling quick treatments to be administered.

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