For serious congenital heart defects, it's necessary for your child to receive treatment soon after birth to avoid serious problems. Fortunately, most serious heart defects are found soon after birth, and sometimes are detected even before your baby is born.

Some of the potential complications that can occur with a congenital heart defect include:

  • Congestive heart failure. This serious complication, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the body, usually develops in the first six months after birth in babies who have a significant heart defect. Signs of congestive heart failure include rapid breathing, often with gasping breaths, and poor weight gain.
  • Slower growth and development. Children with congenital heart defects often develop and grow more slowly than do children who don't have heart defects. Your child may be smaller than other children of the same age and, if the nervous system has been affected, may learn to walk and talk later than other children.
  • Pneumonia. Having a congenital heart defect makes your child more prone to respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia.
  • Heart rhythm problems.
  • Cyanosis. If your child's heart defect causes oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix in his or her heart, your child may develop a grayish-blue skin color, a condition called cyanosis.
  • Stroke. Although uncommon, some children with congenital heart defects are at increased risk of stroke due to blood clots traveling through a hole in the heart and on to the brain.
  • Emotional issues. Some children with congenital heart defects may feel insecure or develop emotional problems because of their size, activity restrictions or learning difficulties. Talk to your child's doctor if you're concerned about your child's moods.
  • A need for lifelong follow-up. Treatment for children who have congenital heart defects may not end with surgeries or medication while they're young. Children who have heart defects should be mindful of their heart problems their entire lives, as their defect could have complications, such as increased risk of heart tissue infection (endocarditis), heart failure or heart valve problems.
Oct. 02, 2012