Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

After your ventricular septal defect (VSD) is repaired, you or your child will need follow-up care throughout life for doctors to monitor your condition and check for any signs of complications.

Your doctor may suggest that you or your child have regular follow-up appointments with a doctor who specializes in congenital heart disease. In follow-up appointments, your doctor may evaluate you or your child and order imaging tests to monitor your or your child's condition.

Here are a few tips for managing your or your child's condition:

  • Consider pregnancy carefully. Before becoming pregnant, talk to a doctor trained in heart conditions (cardiologist) to determine if you can undergo pregnancy safely. This is especially important if you're taking medications. It's also important to see both an obstetrician and a cardiologist during pregnancy.

    Having a repaired VSD without complications or having a small defect doesn't pose an additional pregnancy risk. However, having an unrepaired, larger defect; heart failure; pulmonary hypertension; abnormal heart rhythms; or other heart defects poses a high risk to both mother and fetus. Doctors strongly advise women with Eisenmenger syndrome not to become pregnant because of the high risk of complications.

  • Prevent endocarditis. You or your child usually won't need to take antibiotics before certain dental procedures to prevent an infection of the heart's inner lining (endocarditis).

    However, your doctor may recommend antibiotics if you've had prior endocarditis, a heart valve replacement, if you have had a recent VSD repair with artificial material, if you still have leaks through the VSD, if the repaired VSD is next to a defect that's been repaired with artificial material, or if you have a large ventricular septal defect that's causing low oxygen levels.

    For most people with a ventricular septal defect, good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups can prevent endocarditis.

  • Follow exercise recommendations. Your doctor can advise you about which activities are safe for you or your child. If some activities pose special dangers, encourage your child to engage in other, safer activities. Keep in mind that many children with VSDs can lead healthy, fully active, productive lives.

    Children with small defects or a repaired hole in the heart will usually have few or no restrictions on activity or exercise. Children whose hearts don't pump as normally will need to follow some limits. A child with irreversible pulmonary hypertension (Eisenmenger syndrome) has the greatest number of restrictions.

Coping and support

Consider joining a support group for families of children born with heart defects. Support groups can help parents, families and caregivers find answers, connect with other families, and share their hopes and concerns with others facing similar challenges.

Prevention

In most cases, you can't do anything to prevent having a baby with a ventricular septal defect. However, it's important to do everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy. Here are the basics:

  • Get early prenatal care, even before you're pregnant. Talk to your doctor before you get pregnant about your health and discuss any lifestyle changes that your doctor may recommend for a healthy pregnancy. Also, be sure you talk to your doctor about any medications you're taking.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Include a vitamin supplement that contains folic acid. Also, limit caffeine.
  • Exercise regularly. Work with your doctor to develop an exercise plan that's right for you.
  • Avoid risks. These include harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.
  • Avoid infections. Be sure you're up to date on all of your vaccinations before becoming pregnant. Certain types of infections can be harmful to a developing fetus.
  • Keep diabetes under control. If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to be sure it's well-controlled before getting pregnant.

If you have a family history of heart defects or other genetic disorders, consider talking with a genetic counselor before getting pregnant.