Congenital heart defects (CHD) are structural heart or blood vascular abnormalities that arise during fetal development and are apparent at birth. Both men and women can have CHD, however some kinds of CHD are more frequent in women.
An atrial septal defect (ASD), which is a hole in the wall that divides the two upper chambers of the heart, is one form of septal defect. Women are more likely than males to have ASDs, which typically go untreated until maturity. Another case in point is patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a disorder in which a blood channel that should seal after birth remains open, enabling blood to flow in the opposite way. PDAs are also more prevalent in women than men.
Women with CHD may have special health problems during pregnancy and delivery. Some varieties of CHD can place additional pressure on the heart during pregnancy, raising the risk of problems for both the mother and the child. To guarantee the best potential results for both mother and baby, women with CHD should receive specialist care during pregnancy and delivery.
Women with CHD should collaborate closely with their healthcare physician to manage their disease and reduce the risk of consequences. To control symptoms and prevent long-term consequences, regular check-ups, medicines, and, in some circumstances, surgical procedures may be required.
Atrial septal defect (ASD)
The atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital heart defect (CHD) that occurs at birth. It is a hole in the wall (septum) that separates the heart’s two upper chambers (atria). ASD is more frequent in women than in males.
ASD may range from little holes that generate no symptoms and do not necessitate treatment to massive holes that create severe issues. The severity of symptoms and the risk of complications might be affected by the size and location of the hole.
Atrial septal defects may not be identified until adulthood in some circumstances because symptoms are absent or moderate. ASD symptoms commonly include:
- Breathing difficulties, particularly during vigorous activity
- Palpitations or irregular heart beats
- Leg, foot, or abdominal swelling
- Stroke or other blood clot-related complications
Women with ASD may experience additional health issues during pregnancy and delivery. Pregnancy can put additional pressure on the heart, leading to issues such heart failure, arrhythmias, and pulmonary hypertension. Women with ASD who wish to become pregnant should seek specialist treatment from a healthcare professional who specialises in CHD management.
Diagnosis for Atrial septal defects
ASD is normally diagnosed using a combination of a medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing.
During a physical exam, a healthcare professional may use a stethoscope to listen to the heart for the distinctive “murmur” that may suggest an ASD. Nevertheless, because not all ASDs cause a murmur, additional diagnostic testing may be required.
ASD diagnostic tests may include the following:
Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test detects abnormal cardiac rhythms by recording the electrical activity of the heart.
Chest X-ray: This imaging test can assist detect heart or blood vessel enlargement, which may be a symptom of an ASD.
Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is a form of ultrasonography that produces pictures of the heart using sound waves. It can indicate the location, size, and severity of an ASD, as well as any other heart abnormalities that may be present.
Cardiac catheterization: it is an invasive technique in which a tiny tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood artery and threaded up to the heart. The healthcare professional can monitor the pressure in the heart and blood arteries, as well as take photographs of the heart and do other tests, during this process.
The identification of ASD is critical in order to begin effective therapy.
The size and location of the defect, as well as the severity of symptoms and the risk of consequences, all influence therapy for atrial septal defect (ASD). Little ASDs may not require treatment in certain circumstances, but continuous monitoring is necessary to identify any changes in the condition.
The following are some ASD treatment options:
Observation and monitoring
If the ASD is minor and not producing symptoms, a healthcare professional may prescribe frequent echocardiograms to check for changes in the heart or the ASD.
Medications can be used to treat symptoms including shortness of breath, exhaustion, and heart palpitations. Diuretics, beta-blockers, and blood thinners are among the drugs that may be prescribed.
For bigger ASDs or those generating considerable symptoms, surgery may be suggested. During surgical repair, the healthcare practitioner will use stitches or a patch to plug the hole in the heart. Most surgeries are conducted under general anesthesia, and most patients are able to resume regular activities within a few weeks.
A catheter-based method can be utilised to seal the ASD in some situations. A tiny tube (catheter) is placed via a vein in the groin and directed up to the heart during this procedure. The hole in the heart is subsequently sealed by a device, such as an umbrella-shaped closure device. Catheter-based procedures are less intrusive than surgery and may need less time to recuperate.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) is a congenital cardiac abnormality that affects both men and women equally. When the ductus arteriosus, a blood artery that joins two main arteries near the heart during foetal development, fails to seal correctly after delivery, the disease arises.
PDA in women can cause symptoms similar to those seen in males, such as fast or difficult breathing, tiredness, and an elevated heart rate. Women, on the other hand, may have certain distinct symptoms due to physiological variations between males and females.
Because of the increased demands on the heart and lungs, women with PDA may be more prone to develop shortness of breath or exhaustion during pregnancy. PDA can also raise the risk of pregnancy problems such as premature labour.
Diagnosis of patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
PDA is normally diagnosed using a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing, which include:
Medical history: Typically, a healthcare professional will begin by collecting a full medical history, including questions about any symptoms or difficulties connected to heart function.
Physical examination: A physical examination will also be performed by a healthcare practitioner to search for symptoms of PDA, such as a heart murmur or abnormal heart sounds.
Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test detects abnormalities in cardiac rhythm or function by measuring the electrical activity of the heart.
Chest x-ray: A chest X-ray may be requested to search for symptoms of heart enlargement or other abnormalities.
The treatment choices for patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) are determined by the size and severity of the defect, as well as the patient’s age and overall health. Among the treatment options available are:
A healthcare physician may consider watching the condition over time to see if it closes on its own in some circumstances, particularly if the PDA is minor and not producing any symptoms.
Indomethacin or ibuprofen, for example, can be used to assist seal a PDA. These drugs act by lowering prostaglandin synthesis, which keeps the ductus arteriosus open. Unfortunately, not all PDAs respond to medicine, and these drugs may have negative effects.
A tiny tube (catheter) is placed into a blood artery in the groin and directed up to the heart in this technique. After that, a tiny device, such as a coil or umbrella-shaped device, is put over the PDA to prevent blood flow through the defect.
A healthcare physician may propose surgery to close the PDA in specific circumstances. The ductus arteriosus is tied off or severed and stitched closed during the surgery.
Do congenital heart defects affect pregnant women?
Congenital heart abnormalities (CHDs) can affect pregnant women in a variety of ways. The exact impact is determined by the nature and degree of the problem, as well as the women’s general health.
Women with CHDs who become pregnant may be more likely to experience specific difficulties, such as:
- Maternal heart failure: Women with CHDs may have lower cardiac function or blood flow, making it more difficult for the heart to fulfil the additional demands of pregnancy.
- Arrhythmias: Women with CHDs are more likely to have irregular heart rhythms during pregnancy, which can lead to difficulties for both the mother and the baby.
- Preterm labour or delivery: Women with CHDs may be more likely to have preterm labour or delivery, which can raise the risk of difficulties for the infant.
- Preeclampsia: Women with CHDs are more likely to develop preeclampsia, a disorder marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.
- Foetal complications: Some CHDs can raise the risk of prenatal problems such growth restriction, low birth weight, or stillbirth.
Women’s cardiac abnormalities are the least discussed. These are frequently disregarded and overlooked, resulting in major complications in the future. Every woman is recommended to maintain a check on her health by getting a regular medical check-up beyond a certain age, especially during the pregnancy period.
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