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.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any 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 helps 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 again?
- 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:
Oct. 02, 2012
- 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 Aug. 13, 2012.
- Fuster V, ed. et al. Hurst's The Heart. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=5. Accessed Aug. 13, 2012.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1608/0.html. Accessed Aug. 13, 2012.
- Congenital heart defects. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/birthdefects_congenitalheart.html. Accessed Aug. 13, 2012.
- If your child has a congenital cardiovascular defect. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/CongenitalHeartDefectsToolsResources/Web-Booklet-If-Your-Child-Has-a-Congenital-Heart-Defect_UCM_316608_Article.jsp. Accessed Aug. 13, 2012.