It's Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week (Feb. 7 through 14) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is urging women to take preventative steps before,during and after pregnancy to prevent heart defects in their children.

MDHHS has been painlessly screening newborns through the Newborn Screening Program to catch any serious congenital heart defects as early as possible. More than 333,000 babies have been screened since 2014.

Congenital heart defects are one of the most common birth defects, according to the health department, and the leading cause of defect-related infant deaths.

“With technology and treatment for these conditions improving -- if diagnosed early -- children with serious congenital heart defects have the potential to lead normal, healthy lives," said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS’ chief medical officer.

Parents should know that newborn screenings can't identify every child with critical health problems. Warning signs that all parents should watch out for are: bluish colored lips or skin, grunting, fast breathing, poor feeding and little-to-no weight gain.

MDHHS says that increased risk for congenital heart defects are associated with maternal obesity, diabetes and smoking.

“The heart forms in the early weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman realizes she is pregnant,” Wells said. “Diet, genetic and environmental factors, life-style choices, health conditions and medications all can play a role in preventing or causing congenital heart defects.”

Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should:

  • Avoid alcohol and illegal/recreation drugs
  • Avoid exposure to smoke, chemicals and toxins
  • Take a folic acid supplement
  • See a physician before getting pregnant to review medical history
  • Go for regular check-ups

For more information about Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week, click here. For more information about Michigan's Newborn Screening Program, visit www.michigan.gov/newbornscreening.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter