Many congenital heart defects can be diagnosed prenatally by fetal echocardiography. This is a test which can be done during the second trimester of pregnancy, when the woman is about 18–24 weeks pregnant. It can be an abdominal ultrasound or transvaginal ultrasound.
If a baby is born with cyanotic heart disease, the diagnosis is usually made shortly after birth due to the blue colour of their skin (called cyanosis). If a baby is born with a septal defect or an obstruction defect, their symptoms are often only noticeable after several months or sometimes even after many years.
Sometimes CHD improves without treatment. Other defects are so small that they do not require any treatment. However, in many occasions CHD could be more serious and may require surgery and/or medication. Medications include diuretics, which aid the body in eliminating water, salts, and digoxin for strengthening the contraction of the heart. This slows the heartbeat and removes some fluid from tissues. Some defects require surgical procedures to restore circulation back to normal and in some cases, multiple surgeries are needed. Most patients require lifelong specialized cardiac care, first with a paediatric cardiologist and later with and adult congenital cardiologist. There are more than 1.8 million adults living with congenital heart defects.