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title pic Living With a Heart Defect

Posted by Fiona Cole on April 6, 2011

Living With a Heart Defect

Some of the most commonly occurring birth defects are related to the heart. In the U.S., around 35,000 babies are born each year with heart defects ranging from very mild to severe. Heart defects originate early on in the pregnancy, during the period when the baby’s heart is forming.

Many women who took antidepressants, such as Celexa, during their pregnancy have been devastated to discover that antidepressant medication can increase the risk of heart defects. The good news is that advances in surgical treatment and diagnosis have led to a dramatic increase in the survival rate of children with the most serious forms of this disease. And many children and adults live with heart defects and are able to lead active, happy lives.

Medical check-ups, routine exams and taking medication — as directed by your doctor — are the bedrock of managing a heart defect. In addition to working closely with a heart specialist, you can also take the following steps to increase the quality of life for both you and your child:

  1. Communicate: Be sure to communicate with your child as s/he grows up so that they understand what kind of defect they are living with, how to take responsibility for their health as they become a teenager and what kind of treatments are needed.
  2. Keep Medical Records: Create a file that includes information on your child’s diagnosis, prescribed medication, any surgeries or procedures, treatment follow-up recommendations, any recommendations for preventing complications and details of your health insurance. Ask your healthcare providers for copies of any documentation you need.
  3. Nutrition: Make sure your child is getting enough calories and talk to the doctor about feeding advice, meal scheduling and nutritional supplements. Providing nutritious snacks and meals will help your baby to grow and develop.
  4. Physical Activity: Exercise is important for all children. Ask your child’s physician how much activity is appropriate, and what types of activities are best. Ask the doctor for a note describing any recommended limits on exertion, so that you can communicate with school and any other organizations your child is involved with.
  5. Mental Well-being: It is common for children and teenagers who are dealing with a medical condition to feel isolated or frustrated. Create a habit of regularly talking to your child about his or her feelings and, if you have any concerns, ask your doctor for advice.
  6. Self-care: Caring for a child with a medical issue takes a lot of energy. Make sure you take the time to look after yourself, so you can continue to be strong and supportive for your child. Eat healthily, sign up for some mind-body classes, take a bubble bath and consider joining a support group.
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