In 2004 like most expectant mothers, I was excited and nervous as to what the future held for my family. Would my baby girl healthy or would she be born like me with a congenital heart defect? As an adult living with such a chronic disease, I knew what that entailed; a lifetime faced with numerous hospital visits, surgeries and procedures. Thankfully she was healthy and strong, but many mothers are not as fortunate.
Congenital heart defects or diseases (CHD) are defined as “conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works (“Mortality From,” 2011).” These defects range from mild to severe and impact the infant’s blood flow through heart and body (“Facts about”, 2014). The more complex or severe CHDs are considered Critical Congenital Heart Diseases (CCHD) and usually require surgery or catheterization intervention within the first year of life (“Facts about”, 2014). CHD is the number 1 birth defect in the United States, affecting 1 in every 100 live births. It also ranks as the leading cause of infant related deaths (“About CHF”, 2012). The American Heart Association (AHA) states that roughly between 4 and 10 infants are born with CHD with about 1,500 do not survive to see their first birthday (“Small Hearts”, 2012). With this compelling data, I’m encouraged that Healthy People 2020 listed CHD as a Maternal, Infant and Child Health target objective.
The overall goal for the Maternal, Infant and Child Health topics seek to improve the welfare of mothers, infants, and children in the United States. This population not only determines the health of the next generation, but also serves as a forecast into the future of public health (“Maternal, Infant and Child,” 2013). With my background, I was compelled to investigate the particular objective labeled: MICH-1.7, which seeks to reduce infant related deaths due to congenital heart birth defects (“Data 2020,” 2013). As of 2006, the baseline data shows congenital heart and vascular related deaths accounted for .38 of 1000 live births in the United States. The target is to reduce that to .34 for every 1000 live births by 2020 (“Maternal, Infant and Child,” 2013). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2006 the state of Virginia had average CHD death rate of .42 for every 1000 live births, which is above the national average for that year (“Data 2010,” 2011).
The human heart begins to pump at 21 to 22 days after conception and continues to develop throughout the first 3 to 8 weeks of gestation (McKinney, p 218). It is during this crucial period in utero that abnormalities may occur (McKinney, p.1200). An infant may have a 2-10% higher risk if a parent, especially a mother, or sibling has CHD (“Small Hearts,” 2012). Children with genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, have a 50% increased risk of developing cardiac disorders (McKinney, p 1201). While non-genetic risk factors for CHD are still...