Some congenital heart defects can be found before birth. Knowing if a baby has a heart defect before birth can help families plan for the future. Some heart defects can be found at birth, because they can cause a baby to have bluish tinted nails or lips or troubled breathing. Also, some heart defects potentially can be detected in babies soon after birth using pulse oximetry screening, which is a test to determine the amount of oxygen in the blood and pulse rate. Certain hospitals screen all babies soon after birth using pulse oximetry screening. However, pulse oximetry screening is not required in most states. Other heart defects might have no signs at birth and are not found until later in life, during childhood or even adulthood. If a health care provider (a doctor or nurse) thinks a congenital heart defect is present, the baby can have several tests to diagnose the defect.
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More Answers from Coleen Boyle, PhD, MS