CHD risk factors

A congenital heart defect signifies an issue in the structure of the heart when a child is born. This can greatly impact a newborn’s heart function and developmental growth, including their ability to breathe. 

Congenital heart disease symptoms can be severe, requiring long-term care and even multiple surgeries to correct heart function. Learning more about CHD and the risk factors associated with it can help prevent CHD and offer support. 

Keep reading to discover more about the top risk factors of congenital heart disease

What is CHD?

CHD occurs when the normal development of the heart is disrupted. This typically occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the infant is initially developing heart function. During the first six weeks, the heart develops into a functioning system from a tube-like structure. Once the heartbeat is identified, a doctor can determine whether the beat is regular and healthy. An irregular heartbeat is often the first sign of a congenital heart defect. 

Top risk factors of Congenital Heart Disease

Although the true culprit behind CHD is yet to be determined, there are several risk factors that have been identified. These factors significantly increase the likelihood of congenital heart disease developing in newborns. Being aware of these risk factors can help you prevent the likelihood of CHD occurring during pregnancy.


The risk for CHD increases if one or both parents carry the following genetic conditions:

  • Certain types of congenital heart disease
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Turner syndrome
  • Noonan syndrome 


Particularly, maternal diabetes carries a higher risk of infants developing CHD. High levels of insulin and blood sugar can have an impact on developmental growth in the womb. Pregnant patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes should take care to control these levels through their first trimester. 

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, pregnant women should avoid drinking alcohol to avoid its poisonous effect on fetal tissue. If an infant develops other disorders like fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, there is a higher likelihood that CHD will occur. Some congenital heart diseases, like atrial and ventricular septal defects, have a higher risk of developing from alcohol consumption, as well.

Viral infections

It is essential for every pregnant person to get fully vaccinated against viral infections like rubella and the flu. Rubella, or measles, can have a severe impact on developing infants in the first trimester. It not only is a leading risk factor for CHD but can cause other birth defects, as well. Pregnant persons should also avoid visiting others with viral infections, even if they are vaccinated.

Certain medications

Always check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter or herbal medications while pregnant. Certain medications have shown an increased risk of infants developing CHD. These include:

  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Acne medications
  • Ibuprofen (when taken 30 or more weeks pregnant)
  • Paracetamol (when taken during the first 3 months of pregnancy)

Although there are many risk factors when it comes to CHD, there are also many ways to seek help, guidance, and support. Contact Conquering CHD for more information on risk factors and preventative measures.

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