#1 birth defect

Did you know…. Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are the #1 birth defect? Before Natalie was born, neither did I! According to the March of Dimes, not only are CHDs the most common birth defect, but 1 out of 100 babies born in the United States alone is born with a CHD. Defects of the heart can range from a small hole in the heart with some careful watch and no surgeries all the way to severe malformations and complexity that require close watch, multiple surgeries, even transplant. These heart defect occurrences far surpass the birth defects such as cleft lip/palate and Down Syndrome. But, that’s just the United States. According to CHD-UK, the UK also has a statistic about heart defects. CHDs are also the #1 birth defect there as well. For both countries, there is something also very common- CHDs are the #1 cause of death among all birth defects. Yet another similarity is that there are 35 known forms of congenital heart defects. There are combinations and complex forms still undiscovered which brings the total to surpass 35.

That’s quite a bit to take in. The question that many want an answer to is why? Why are Congenital Heart Defects so common? Then a second question is why are they common yet most people hear about CHDs for the first time when their loved one is diagnosed?

CHDs do not get enough media attention. The research for CHDs is happening, but there’s not enough. According to the American Heart Association,

“In fiscal year 2010-11, we invested over $110.9 million in research on all aspects of heart disease and stroke nationwide. Nearly 7.2% of that amount ($7.94 million) funded 66 new research awards related to children’s heart disease.”

But it’s no where near enough.

Unfortunately, I don’t have answers to the WHY and the HOW. But I do know, since being a “heart mom” for 5 years now, I’ve learned that CHDs usually just happen. I call it a “blip” in the development of a baby. Something totally uncontrolled that, unfortunately, just happens. The heart of a fetus completely develops by week 8 of pregnancy.  So far, research suggests that CHDs are probably linked to genes and possibly some environmental influence. So, underneath the guilt of a mom giving birth to a child with a heart condition, is a mom wanting answers, too. Hopefully as CHDs become better researched, we’ll all find out the answers we need. Like I always say, the answers are there just waiting to be found.

~Dawn Bent, mom of “The Queen”

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