What increases the chance of having a child with a heart defect?

There are several factors that might increase the risk of having a child with a congenital heart defect.

First, the risk of having a baby who suffers from a heart defect is higher in families where these defects are already present.

However, there are chances of having a child who suffers from such a defect even if the parents are not affected by these malformations.

Statistically, 8 in 1000 children are born with congenital heart defects, but most of these malformations are mild and do not pose serious risks to the child’s growth.

Do children with congenital heart defects live a normal life as they grow?

Children that are born with congenital heart defects often discover these malformations later in life. In most cases, they live perfectly normal lives.

These are the most common birth defects. A specialist’s opinion is, however, necessary in order to evaluate the nature of the malformation.

Virtually, all the children who are born with this type of defect can survive if the disorder is mild. Most of them grow and have a normal life, but for some, physical activity might be limited. If the defect is more severe, the child might face developmental delay.

What is the cause of congenital heart defects?

The exact reason why the heart does not develop correctly is not known, however, here are some suspected causes:

  • Family history: CHD runs in families. It is estimated that a newborn is at 3 times higher risk of CHD when his/her first-degree relative has had a CHD.
  • Certain medications: Intake of certain medicines during pregnancy increases the risk of CHD in the growing fetus. Medications such as thalidomide, lithium, isotretinoin, statins, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are known to increase the risk of developmental heart defects.
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy: Women who smoked during pregnancy are 60% more likely to have a baby with CHD. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy also causes heart defects.
  • Viral infection during the first trimester of pregnancy: Contracting rubella (German measles) during the first 3 months of pregnancy can increase the risk of having a baby with developmental abnormalities in the heart.
  • Increased blood sugar level: Being a diabetic during conception increases your chances of having a baby with CHD.
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU) and a deficiency of vitamin B and folic acid during pregnancy.

Disclaimer: We do not assume responsibility for the use of the provided information or its interpretation. Our efforts are towards providing current and reliable information; however these should not be considered, or used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment.

Source: https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Education/Medical-Library/