Congenital Heart Defects

Causes


In most cases, doctors don’t know why heart-related birth defects occur. Research suggests the following may play a role:

  • Our genes. At least 15% of congenital heart disease can be traced back to genes passed down from mom or dad , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . If you or your family members have been diagnosed with congenital heart disease (for example, with a bicuspid aortic valve), getting your parents, brothers, sisters, and children checked may be recommended.
  • Other genetic abnormalities. For example, half of all babies with Down Syndrome also have heart issues from birth, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
  • Certain viruses. For example, women who get German measles (rubella) during the first three months of pregnancy  have a greater chance of having a baby with a heart defect.
  • Other environmental and maternal factors. These are less understood and still being studied.  

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Facts and Numbers


Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in the U.S.

  • It affects 1 IN 100 BABIES each year in the U.S. (that’s about 40,000).
  • About 1 in 4 with a congenital heart disease will need surgery or other procedures in their first year of life. 

Children born with congenital heart disease are living longer, healthier lives thanks to improved care and treatments.

  • More adults are living with congenital heart disease than kids.
  • About 9 out of 10 children born with non-critical heart defects now survive into adulthood.

Still, people with heart defects can be at increased risk for disease of other organs, such as liver or kidney disease.

For women with congenital heart disease, pregnancy can pose serious risks. Many women can have successful pregnancies, but it requires careful planning. It’s important to talk with your doctor before becoming pregnant or if you become pregnant. 

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Published: August 2017
Medical Reviewers: Elisa Bradley, MD, FACC; Tabitha G. Moe, MD, FACC

Infographic: Congenital Heart Defects

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