February is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Month and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is continuing its efforts to increase awareness of birth defects and how to prevent them. Every 15 minutes, an infant is born with a congenital heart defect (CHD); they are the most common birth defect and are the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths.
Melissa Moore is an active member of OSDH’s Screening and Special Services Advocate Group. Her son, Greyson Moore, was born in 2011 and appeared to be a healthy baby. Four days later at a routine weight check, Greyson appeared purple from the chest down with a temperature of 91.7 degrees.
Greyson was diagnosed with a critical congenital heart defect that caused development failure to the left side of his heart; he passed away six months after the discovery of this defect.
Infants with defects like Greyson’s are at a significant risk for disability or death if their condition is not diagnosed soon after birth. Today, these defects can be identified through the newborn pulse oximetry screening, a painless test that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.
“I don’t know if the newborn pulse oximetry screening would have changed Greyson’s outcome at all,” said Moore. “But had his defect been detected before we went home from the hospital, his body would not have started to shut down. He would have been in a better position to have the traditional surgeries, and we may have had more time with our precious boy.”
Moore is the president and executive director of Greyson’s Advocates, working to provide information and materials to families of children facing significant medical diagnoses or extended hospitals stays in an effort to allow them to focus on being advocates for their children.
All the causes of heart defects are not known, however the CDC’s National Birth Defects Prevention Study has found that women who are obese, have diabetes or smoke during pregnancy increase their chances of having a baby born with a heart defect.
Couples are encouraged to take these important steps before and during pregnancy to help prevent CHDs:
· Plan ahead – Take 400 mcg of folic acid daily
· Avoid harmful substances – Quit smoking
· Choose a healthy lifestyle – Stay at a healthy weight
· Talk to a doctor – Control diagnosed diabetes
OSDH continues to work with healthcare professionals, birthing hospitals and advocate groups around the state to raise awareness of CHD’s and newborn screening.