Congenital Heart Awareness month promotes awareness and provides education about congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects (CHD) are the most common birth defect. According to the CDC, 40,000 babies a year are born with a heart defect. This is about 1% of all babies in the United States. This means that nearly 1 in 100 babies are born with a heart defect. On a global level, about 1.35 million babies are born each year with CHD. Despite its prevalence, CHD research is underfunded due to a lack of public recognition.
CHD occurs when a part of the heart doesn’t develop normally. There are 360 different types of CHDs. They can cause a number of problems, including changes in blood flow, poorly developed valves, reduced oxygen levels, and holes in the heart. Some defects are milder than others. Mild heart defects may not require treatment. Complex heart defects, however, may require open-heart surgery. Sometimes more than one surgery, or a heart transplant, is necessary.
Babies born with CHD usually have certain symptoms. These include trouble breathing, poor weight gain, poor circulation, and tiring easily. Babies with reduced oxygen levels have blue lips and fingernails, which is called cyanosis. There is no cure for CHD. However, treatment can greatly enhance the quality of life and add years to a child’s life. Thanks to research and advances in pediatric cardiology, more babies than ever are reaching adulthood.