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What is the cause of congenital heart defects?

These type of heart defects are called congenital because they are present since the moment of birth.

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/