With a new little one, the tests, forms and information are abundant. Family Practice with Obstetrics Physician Dr. Shawn Richmond knows this all too well! One test that all of his little patients receive is a pulse oximetry to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. Sounds big but it’s actually quite small. The test uses little sticky monitors (think of a band-aid), that are applied to a baby’s foot and hand. Don’t worry, this test is totally painless, but provides insight on their health, often before any signs and symptoms could be noticed. Pretty neat huh?

Wondering how something so simple can be so important? Well, low oxygen levels can mean trouble for your little one’s heart in the form of a congenital heart defect, the most common form of birth defect. Luckily, this test can show if something isn’t quite right so further testing and treatment can be done right away.

Though this test is performed on all newborns, it’s important to continue to be mindful of changes in your baby during the first few months of life as some congenital heart defects may not become evident immediately after birth. Some signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Gray or blue skin coloring
  • Rapid breathing
  • Flared nostrils
  • Swelling in the legs, abdomen or eye area
  • Shortness of breath during feedings
  • Grunting while breathing

You’re probably wondering, as a parent, what can you do to prevent these heart defects? Well, your baby’s heart begins to take shape during the first six weeks of pregnancy, so it’s important to take care of your health from day one! While researchers aren’t sure on the exact cause of this condition – genetics, some medical conditions, medications and factors such as smoking may play a role.

With February as National Heart Month, now is a great time to remember your heart health too mom and dad! After all, you don’t want to miss out on your bundle of joy’s accomplishments down the road, right?! Many health factors including high blood pressure and high cholesterol can go undetected for years thanks to their lack of symptoms, but can cause your heart some harm in the meantime. Your best option is to schedule your regular health screenings and keep up a yearly physical with your primary care provider. Take heart in caring of yourself and your little one!