Congenital Heart Disease

By Guest Editor on Feb 11, 2016

Every year, more than 35,000 babies in the United States are born with a congenital heart defect. You may have heard the term "congenital heart disease" when it is actually referring to a heart defect. These malformations happen when the baby is developing in the womb and are often found during a pregnancy ultrasound.

Most congenital heart defects are simple and do not require treatment or medication. More complicated cases, however, contribute to more infant deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defect. Researchers have long been studying congenital heart defects but have yet to find an exact cause. Alcohol, infections (specifically rubella), and chemicals can lead to some heart defects.

The different types of birth defects range from the unobtrusive to an immediate medical emergency. Aortic Valve Stenosis is a defect where one of the heart valves does not open and close properly, allowing blood to flow back into heart. More serious is the Atrial Septal Defect, a condition where the wall between the two chambers of the heart has not formed completely, so oxygenated and deoxygenated blood mix. Emergency situations arise when the heart as a whole develops incorrectly, and surgery is required immediately after birth.

Some defects are genetic and based on chromosomal mutations. If there is a history of congenital heart defects in your family, speak with your doctor before you become pregnant or during your first pregnancy appointment. Without knowing the cause of the defects, the best form of prevention is good health. Maintain access to good medical care during your pregnancy. Avoid drugs and alcohol and receive your Rubella vaccination before becoming pregnant, when possible. And always communicate with your OB/GYN if you have any concerns.