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Nov 13, 2014

Lupus Linked to Congenital Heart Defects

Study finds that women with lupus are almost 3 times more likely to have a child with a congenital heart defect.

Women with lupus are more than twice as likely to have a child with a congenital heart defect, according to a study recently published in the journal Circulation.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that impacts 1.5 million Americans and can cause a number of health issues, affecting joints, organs, and/or blood vessels. As 90% of all individuals diagnosed with the disease are women, many women contemplating pregnancy wonder if having lupus will affect their baby. And while medical advancements have made it possible for women with lupus to have a healthy pregnancy and baby, there are known risks, one of which may be congenital heart defects.

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting nearly 1% of all births in the United States. Previous studies have linked connective tissue disorders like lupus to increased risk of heart defects, but none focused specifically on lupus.

Using healthcare databases in Quebec, researchers analyzed thousands of deliveries between 1989 and 2009. After identifying 509 women who gave birth to 719 children during this period, researchers compared the frequency of congenital heart defects in this group of children compared to the general population. Unfortunately, children born to women with lupus were 2.6 times more likely to have a congenital heart defect compared to children born to women without lupus. These children were also nearly 6 times as likely to undergo a procedure to fix a heart defect compared to those unaffected by lupus.

The good news is that babies born with congenital heart defects are living longer and healthier lives thanks to medical advancements. Although survival depends on how severe the heart defect is, most children born with a congenital heart defect are able to live normal, healthy lives and some don’t even require treatment for their condition. To address increased risk in pregnant women with lupus, authors encourage further research to help explain this phenomenon and reduce risk of heart defects in children born to women with this disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are congenital heart defects?
  • Congenital heart defects refer to a number of different conditions that can occur when a baby’s heart is forming or at birth. Although most defects are found during pregnancy or in early childhood, some defects aren’t discovered until adulthood. Survival rates depend on the severity of the heart defect, but most individuals with congenital heart defects live long and healthy lives.
  • How common are congenital heart defects?
  • Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting roughly 1% of all births in the United States. Thanks to advancements in treatments, it’s estimated that 1 million adults are now living with a congenital heart defect.

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