What is the most common cause of congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease is lifelong, with sufferers of the disease requiring long-term, specialized care. While most causes of CHD are unknown, there are a few factors that can impact the likelihood of a child being born with the disease. 

Since many children born with congenital heart disease and congenital heart defects develop other neurocognitive and neurodevelopmental issues, it’s important to seek CHD support. Keep reading to learn more about the factors that lead to CHD development in children. 

Factors that lead to CHD

Congenital, meaning the condition is present at birth, heart disease includes a range of birth defects that affect the workings of the heart. These heart defects are typically caused by abnormalities in heart growth or formation when the baby is in the womb. Both genes and environmental factors are linked to congenital heart disease in children. 

How family history affects CHD development 

A child’s genes and chromosomes are one of the top factors that may impact the development of CHD. Out of the 1 percent of all infants born with heart defects, there is a three times increased risk for CHD development if a first-degree relative also has CHD. Different types of heart defects may also pose more of a risk of passing on than others, as well. Some defects with an autosomal-dominant inheritance increase in probability with every passing child born from the same parent with CHD.

If family history of congenital heart disease is a concern, you can speak to a genetic specialist regarding your options. Additionally, a fetal echocardiography can be performed in the second trimester to check for developing heart defects. 

Higher risks during pregnancy 

Some of the highest risks for developing CHD is during pregnancy. The first few weeks of pregnancy are a pivotal time for the development of the baby’s heart. While some illnesses and medicines carry little to no weight for a growing fetus, others can cause serious damage. It’s important to check-in with your healthcare provider as soon as you’re aware of your pregnancy. This will help you avoid taking any medications that may put your child at a higher risk of developing a heart defect. 

Be sure to speak to your doctor if you are chronically ill, are taking medication, or have not received your MMR vaccine. Other factors that may increase the risk of CHD during pregnancy include:

  • Seizures, seizure disorders, and anti-seizure medication
  • Some depression medications, like Lithium
  • Varying blood sugar levels caused by insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Chronic illnesses like Lupus, Phenylketonuria (PKU), or a connective tissue disorder
  • Pregnancy from ART (assisted reproductive technology) 

There are many other factors that may impact the development of CHD in children. For more information, and for CHD support for you and your child, visit Conquering CHD.

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