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Most pregnant women never tested for the Most Common Birth Defect

Three out of five women who have given birth to a child with a congenital heart defect, the No. 1 birth defect and leading killer of infants and newborns, were never tested for the defect during pregnancy. This is according to a survey just released by Little Hearts, Inc., a national organization that provides support, education, resources, networking, and hope to families effected by congenital heart defects.

The Little Hearts survey found that 60 percent of parents did not know their child had a CHD until after giving birth, because the mothers were not tested for heart defects during pregnancy.

Of these parents, nearly three out of four (71.6 percent) wished they had known their child had a CHD during pregnancy, mostly because they would have given birth at a hospital more equipped to handle the care of newborns with a CHD (41.6 percent).

Those families that did know their child had a CHD before giving birth (40.0 percent) reaped tremendous benefits from knowing in advance.

* Three out of five (59.5 percent) said they gave birth at a hospital more equipped to handle the care of newborns with a CHD.

* One in five (19.8 percent) prepared themselves mentally and emotionally for the arrival of a seriously ill child.

* Others did their homework: 14.9 percent of respondents said they arranged for a pediatric cardiologist in advance of their baby's arrival, and 5.8 percent said that knowing in advance was most beneficial because it gave them time to do research on CHDs during the pregnancy.

Congenital heart defects occur when a baby's heart fails to form properly during early pregnancy. In most cases, the cause is unknown, although scientists feel both genetic and environmental factors play a role. There are approximately 35 different types of CHDs. Some may be treated with surgery, medicine, and/or devices such as artificial valves and pacemakers. In the last 25 years, advances in the treatment of heart defects have enabled half a million U.S. children with serious CHDs to survive into adulthood.

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