Congenital heart defects (CHDs) affect approximately 1% of all babies. Around a third of these are detected during pregnancy and another third during the standard newborn checks that are carried out in babies born in hospital before they go home. This means however that around 1 in 3 babies with a CHD will go home with an undetected and potentially life-threatening heart defect. CHDs are the biggest cause of death from a birth defect. They kill twice as many children each year as all childhood cancers combined.
Early detection is vital for helping to improve survival rates in children with CHDs. The Think HEART campaign was launched in order to help parents and health professionals become aware of the signs and symptoms of heart defects in babies.
What signs should new parents look out for?
Possible symptoms of a heart defect include the following:
- H – Heart Rate – is the heart rate too fast or too slow? A normal heart rate in a baby is between 100 and 160bpm.
- E – Energy – is the baby sleepy or quiet? Are they too tired to feed or falling asleep during feeds?
- A – Appearance – is the baby’s skin pale, waxy, dusky, blue or greyish in colour?
- R – Respiration – are they breathing too fast or too slow? A normal respiration rate in a baby is between 40 and 60 breaths per minute.
- T – Temperature – are they cold to touch, especially their hands and feet?
If you think that your baby may have symptoms of a heart defect, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
This post is part of a series of posts to raise awareness of congenital heart defects during Heart Month. Please note that I am a heart parent and not a doctor. The THINK Heart campaign is based on work carried out by Dr Joan LaRovere in 2009. For further information about Think HEART and congenital heart defects please visit the Children’s Heart Federation website at http://chfed.org.uk