Self-management

Coping and support

It's natural for many parents to feel worried about their child's health, even after treatment of a congenital heart defect. Although many children who have congenital heart defects can do the same things children without heart defects can, here are a few things to keep in mind if your child has had a congenital heart defect:

  • Developmental difficulties. Because some children who have congenital heart defects may have had a long recovery time from surgeries or procedures, their development may lag behind that of other children their age. Some children's difficulties may last into their school years, and they may have difficulties learning to read or write, as well.
  • Emotional difficulties. Many children who have developmental difficulties may feel insecure about their abilities and may have emotional difficulties as they reach school age.
  • Support groups. Having a child with a serious medical problem isn't easy and, depending on the severity of the defect, may be very difficult and frightening. You may find that talking with other parents who've been through the same situation brings you comfort and encouragement.

Talk with your child's doctor about ways to help you or your child with difficulties related to your child's heart condition. He or she can suggest resources, such as support groups or therapists that may be helpful to you or your child.

Prevention

Because the exact cause of most congenital heart defects is unknown, it may not be possible to prevent these conditions. However, there are some things you can do that might reduce your child's overall risk of birth defects and possibly heart defects, too, such as:

  • Get a rubella (German measles) vaccine. A rubella infection during pregnancy may affect your baby's heart development. Be sure to get vaccinated before you try to conceive.
  • Control chronic medical conditions. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar in check can reduce the risk of heart defects. If you have other chronic conditions, such as epilepsy, that require the use of medications, discuss the risks and benefits of these drugs with your doctor.
  • Avoid harmful substances. During pregnancy, leave painting and cleaning with strong-smelling products to someone else. Also, don't take any drugs, herbs or dietary supplements without consulting your doctor first. Don't smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Take a multivitamin with folic acid. Daily consumption of 400 micrograms of folic acid has been shown to reduce birth defects in the brain and spinal cord and may help reduce the risk of heart defects as well.
June 17, 2017
References
  1. Congenital heart defects (CHD). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/facts.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2017.
  2. Congenital heart defects. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/chd. Accessed Feb. 8, 2017.
  3. Bonow RO, et al. Diseases of the heart, pericardium, and pulmonary vasculature bed. In: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 8, 2017.
  4. Overview of congenital cardiovascular anomalies. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/congenital-cardiovascular-anomalies/overview-of-congenital-cardiovascular-anomalies. Accessed Feb. 8, 2017.
  5. About congenital heart defects. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/About-Congenital-Heart-Defects_UCM_001217_Article.jsp#.WKIlDVUrJ0w. Accessed Feb. 8, 2017.
  6. Facts about hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/HLHS.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2017.
  7. Congenital heart disease. National Health Service. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Congenital-heart-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed Feb. 8, 2017.
  8. Gil-Jaurena JM, et al. 15 years of minimally invasive paediatric cardiac surgery; development and trends. Anales de Pediatria. 2016;84:304.
  9. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 7, 2017.
  10. Taggart NW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 14, 2017.
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