10 Things All Parents Must Know About The Newborn Heart

Are you fascinated by the rapid lub-dup of your little one’s heartbeat? Like most new parents, you may be anxious about your newborn’s health. Here’s a dossier on your baby’s heart.

By Team ParentCircle

10 Things All Parents Must Know About The Newborn Heart

For many expectant parents, seeing the ultrasound images of their unborn child and hearing the soft heartbeat can be a life-changing experience. The realisation that they would soon be parents and have a huge responsibility towards this tiny being, dawns upon them when they hear the foetus’ beating heart.

And when the baby arrives in this world, there are various aspects about her health that the parents may be concerned about. While a mother is mesmerised by the sound of her child’s heart, the rapid beats may leave her a little concerned. Is my baby’s heart beating a little too fast? Should I consult a doctor for the murmurs? There are many questions about an infant’s heart health that the new parents may seek answers for.

On World Heart Day, here are some interesting facts about a newborn heart that will help parents understand how the muscle works:

1.  The four chambers of a baby’s heart take shape at six weeks of pregnancy and once the chambers and tubes are formed, the blood starts flowing in and out of the chambers.

2.   The newborn heart is different from a grown-up heart.

“Immediately after birth the new-born circulation takes about 4-6 weeks to adjust and reach the adult type of circulation. These are two naturally occurring defects which takes 48 hours to 3 months to close. This would occur in majority of cases.The heart muscles of a newborn take time to mature and are very sensitive during this period,” says Dr S Radha Krishnan.*

3. An infant’s heart always beats faster than that of an older child or adult. While resting, the heart rate for a child and an adult is 60–100 beats per minute, while a newborn’s heart beats about 130–160 times a minute.

4. The adult heart is about the size of our fist and weighs around 300g. In a newborn, the normal heart will be as big as a walnut. However, if there is a defect of any type, the muscle can get enlarged. A combination of tests including ECG, X–ray of the chest and echocardiography can help detect such an anomaly.

5. The most common heart defect in a newborn is atrial septal defect, also called a ‘hole’ in the heart. It is congenital defect, wherein there is a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of your heart. Sometimes, this condition may not cause any problems. But if a big defect goes undetected for long, it can lead to damage of the heart and lungs.

6. The ‘hole’ in the heart can be recognised by some symptoms such as bluish colour of the baby's lips and tongue and difficulty in breathing and breastfeeding. The defect is diagnosed with an echocardiography test.

7. Sometimes, due to turbulent flow of blood near the heart, a child’s heartbeat may be interspersed with a ‘whoosh’ sound. This sound can be detected with a stethoscope. This is called a heart murmur.

“Heart murmurs are produced due to flow turbulence across the heart and can arise due to obstructions in flow of blood, across abnormal valves or a hole in the heart. Heart murmur can go away if it is not due to the above factors. These are called ‘innocent murmurs.’ If the murmur is because of an abnormality, it will go away once it has been treated,” says Dr Radha Krishnan.

8. Have you heard of kangaroo care? This is the best way to ensure that your little one is relaxed and his heart is beating steadily. Kangaroo care means skin-to-skin contact with the mother and is especially beneficial to babies, who are born premature or are in the intensive care unit.

Now that you know about a newborn’s heart and how it functions, you can be better equipped to take care of your little one and his heart. And yes, spend some quiet time listening to the rhythm of your baby’s heartbeat.

*With inputs from Dr S Radha Krishnan, Director, Paediatric Cardiology at a leading hospital.   

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