If your child has a life-threatening heart defect, it will likely be detected soon after birth, or possibly before birth as a part of routine exams during pregnancy.
If you suspect your child has a heart defect later in infancy or childhood, talk to your child's doctor. Be prepared to describe your child's symptoms and provide a family medical history, since some heart defects tend to be hereditary.
Your child's doctor may also want to know if the mother of the child had any medical conditions or used any medications or alcohol while pregnant that may have been a risk factor for developing a congenital heart defect.
What you can do
- Write down any signs and symptoms your child is experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to heart problems. Write down when each symptom began.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that the mother of the child has been taking.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions may help you make the most of your time together. You might want to ask the following questions:
- Are these signs and symptoms related to my family history?
- What kinds of tests does my child need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- Does my child need treatment? If so, when?
- What is the best treatment?
- Do you think my child will experience any long-term complications?
- How will we monitor for possible complications?
- If I have more children, what are the odds of this condition occurring in them?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
Feb. 28, 2015
- When did you first notice your child's symptoms?
- Can you describe your child's symptoms?
- When do these symptoms occur?
- Have the symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- Do the symptoms seem to be getting worse?
- Do you have any family history of congenital heart defects?
- Does anything seem to improve your child's symptoms?
- Has your child been growing and meeting developmental milestones as expected?
- Congenital heart defects. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/chd/. Accessed Jan. 24, 2014.
- Bonow RO, et al. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 24, 2014.
- Overview of congenital cardiovascular anomalies. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/congenital_cardiovascular_anomalies/overview_of_congenital_cardiovascular_anomalies.html?qt=Overview%20of%20Congenital%20Cardiovascular%20Anomalies&alt=sh. Accessed Dec. 22, 2013.
- Yuan S, et al. Congenital heart disease: Emerging themes linking genetics and development. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development. 2013;23:352.
- About congenital heart defects. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/About-Congenital-Heart-Defects_UCM_001217_Article.jsp. Accessed Jan. 24, 2014.
- Facts about hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/hlhs.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Feb. 1, 2014.
- Congenital heart defects. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/congenital-heart-defects.aspx. Accessed Jan. 24, 2014.
- Congenital heart defects surgery. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/CareTreatmentforCongenitalHeartDefects/Congenital-Heart-Defects-Surgery_UCM_307729_Article.jsp. Accessed Jan. 24, 2014.
- Hochberg L, et al. Folic acid for prevention of neural tube defects. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 1, 2014.