A certain type of heart defect found in newborns appears to be strongly linked to the time of year the baby is born, according to research presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology yesterday.
Dr. Pirooz Eghtesady from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital studied 1,500 newborns from 38 children’s hospitals throughout the United States born between 1996 and 2006 who had congenital heart diseases that affected the left side of the heart only. They found that one disease, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, was much more common in babies born in April through July. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a serious birth defect that usually requires at least three surgeries to correct.
They concluded that environmental factors, likely an infection in the mother, was to blame. Babies born in the spring were born to mothers who were most likely to be in second or third trimester during the winter months. Doctors are doing a follow-up study to see if strep throat plays a role, since it is known to damage the left side of the heart. Eghtesady said they have preliminary evidence that many of the babies who had this defect were born to mothers with a serious history of strep throat infections.
I’m not sure what the takeaway might be here for pregnant women, except maybe it would help to get to the doctor if you have a really bad sore throat and get a strep culture to see if it’s strep throat. I used to get strep constantly as a kid, and it is to a regular cold- or flu-related sore throat as a candle is to a house fire, so you’re probably going to know your illness is more serious than a garden-variety virus if you get it. Of course, my medical degree is from Google University so take that as you will. And of course, correlation is not causation, so there’s no reason to worry if you do get it that your baby will have this heart defect.