What to Know About Newborn Heart Murmurs

by | Newborn

Newborns are extremely fragile and require careful handling and extra attention. Parents should be focused on their newborn’s health condition because simple symptoms sometimes point toward serious illness. Heart defects are depicted in the form of abnormal heart sounds. So, knowing the category of your baby’s murmurs is important.

The heart is a precious organ, and some congenital defects at birth can lead to lifelong suffering if not paid attention to promptly. Listening to heart sounds is one way to diagnose serious problems. Knowledge of normal and abnormal heart murmurs is significant if you want to judge your baby’s condition without visiting a physician.

What Is a Heart Murmur?

Heart murmurs are sounds you hear over a newborn’s chest using an instrument called a stethoscope. These sounds are produced by activities of the heart like pumping blood or the closure and opening of valves.

The character of sounds heard in a stethoscope can be whooshing or splashing. Such sounds are courtesy of blood flowing through all the heart’s chambers in a turbulent motion, just like the river stream.

A normal heart produces the sound of “lub-dub.” These sounds correspond to the closing of four heart valves. If a third additional sound is heard in between the lub-dub, it is called a murmur.

An abnormal murmur may be due to defects in heart walls, narrowed or stenotic valves, or regurgitation of blood due to incomplete closure of valves. However, a murmur does not necessarily point toward a pathology in newborn babies.

Why do Newborn Heart Mummers?

Newborn murmurs could be a result of major or minor causes. The first step to knowing your baby’s condition is to rule out whether the murmurs are harmless or pathological.

Harmless Murmurs:

Harmless murmurs are sounds heard only over a specific point on your baby’s chest. Most of these murmurs are audible during the period of systole, i-e, contracting of ventricles.

  • Some innocent murmurs are mostly related to fever or cold that increases heart activity.
  • Anemia is another reason for innocent murmurs. It causes blood to flow with more pressure producing a murmur.
  • Lungs expand and try to fix in the chest cavity soon after the first cry. This process can also disturb heart pumping resulting in innocent murmurs.
  • The growth process starts soon after birth. Blood vessels also expand and stretch, taking part in the growth process. This stretching disturbs the blood flow and results in innocent murmurs.

Heart Murmurs Due to Abnormalities:

The heart is subjected to many congenital defects that are missed at birth. Different types of murmurs are symptoms of specific abnormalities. Knowledge of these murmurs is necessary to avoid serious problems in the future.

  • Septal defects are one major cause of abnormal murmurs. A septal defect is actually a large hole in the heart walls.
  • Cardiomyopathy is the congenital thickening of the heart’s muscles. It makes it difficult to pump blood normally, leading to a murmur.
  • Congenital heart defect involving a change in the structure of a major artery is also a concerning cause.
  • Abnormalities in the structure of valves, like some leaks, can also lead to abnormal murmurs.

What Signs Should Mums Look for?

A murmur always shows up with other general signs that help differentiate the type and cause of murmurs. If you are bothered about your baby’s heart making abnormal sounds, look for the following signs as well.

  • Baby facing difficulty in breastfeeding and losing weight rapidly
  • Cyanosis, causing bluish discoloration of skin, lips, and fingertips
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • Sweating during feeding
  • Repeated chest infections and persistent cough
  • Swollen or prominent neck veins

Mothers should always keep a close eye on their baby’s general conditions because congenital defects always show the aforementioned typical signs.

     

    How to Treat Heart Murmur?

    A heart murmur is itself not a disease, but it’s a symptom of a disease. It would help if you treated the underlying cause to eliminate the murmur. Treatment options depend on the category of the cause. Medications and surgery, both options can correct a murmur depending on the requirement.

    Medication:

    A doctor will prescribe you a medicine depending on your baby’s problem. Some common medication treatments include:

    • Anticlotting factors- to prevent blood clotting
    • Special medicines to decrease blood pressure
    • Statin drugs to control blood cholesterol levels
    • Beta-blocker drugs to control heart rate and lower blood pressure

    Surgical Options:

    Medications are not helpful in cases of structural defects of hearts. They can lower the symptoms for some time, but the definitive treatment option is the surgical correction of the defect.

    • Open Heart Surgery- involves opening up the chest cavity, removing the damaged valve, and replacing it with an artificial valve or graft tissue.
    • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement- this process is less invasive and involves replacing the aortic valve with an artificial valve through a catheter introduced through a leg. An incision can also be given through the chest in case of severe aortic valve stenosis.

    Your baby can need medication and hospital support even after a successful surgery.

    Treating Innocent Murmurs:

    Most of the time, the innocent murmurs don’t need treatment. They disappear as the baby grows.

    You should focus on your baby’s general condition and try to improve it if the murmur does not disappear.

    • Correct your baby’s anemia by improving your diet or through medication
    • Correct the fever or common cold through medication
    • Improve feeding habits
    • Give your baby chest and back massages

    Consult a pediatrician if the murmurs still do not disappear or if you suspect it to be an abnormal murmur.

    Conclusion:

    Heart murmurs are not a disease, but it tells a lot in diagnosing a disease. You should be familiar with the character of sound heard as a murmur and its timing to rule out the causes.

    Innocent heart murmurs are harmless and disappear as your baby grows as soon as the cause diminishes. On the other hand, abnormal murmurs need special attention because they may be due to major defects in your baby’s heart.

    The possible treatment options include medication and surgery. But if your baby is showing cyanosis and struggling to breathe, you should not wait for the medication to show its effect. Surgery is the only best option in such a condition.

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