What are the causes of Congenital Heart Defects?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 15, 2013

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Quick Bites

  • Certain medications can increase the risk of congenital heart problems.
  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause a baby to be born with heart disease.
  • One can be predisposed to  develop congenital heart defects.
  • Pregnant women must limit consumption of alcohol.

Congenital heart disease is something that develops at the time of birth and is marked by a disruption in the normal development of the heart. It is said that most cases of congenital heart diseases develop when something that affects the development of the heart at the time of the fifth month of pregnancy. This is the time when the foetus’ heart develops from a simple tube-like structure into a shape that is like a fully developed heart.

Congenital heart defects

Causes of Congenital Heart Defects

There are a number of reasons or risks that increase a baby’s prospect of developing congenital heart defects. Some of these are as follows:


Genetic Conditions

There are a lot of medical problems that can predispose a baby to develop congenital heart defects. Some of these include Down’s syndrome, turner syndrome and Noonan syndrome.

Maternal Diabetes

Those women who have diabetes are five times more likely to give birth to baby with congenital heart disease compared with women who do not have diabetes. 3 to 6 percent of women with diabetes who end of becoming pregnant will give birth to a baby that has some sort of a heart defect. The most common type of heart defect in these women is the transposition of the great arteries. This increased risk of developing birth defect applies to those women who have type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes and not gestational diabetes. This is because gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born.


If a pregnant woman drinks a lot of alcohol at the time of pregnancy, it can have a dangerous effect on the tissue of the fetus. This is referred to as foetal alcohol syndrome. It has been estimated that as many as half of all the children with foetal alcohol syndrome will develop congenital heart disease, which is most commonly divided into ventricular or atrial septal defects. The Department of Health recommends that pregnant women avoid drinking much alcohol.


Women who develop flu during the first trimester of pregnancy are highly likely to give birth to a baby suffering from congenital heart diseases compared with the general population. The exact reason/s why this happens remains unclear. All pregnant women are recommended to take flu vaccine.


Certain medications can increase the prospect of a baby being born with congenital heart disease. These medications include those that are prescribed for seizure, acne and pain. Speak to your doctor before self-prescribing OTC medications for the above health problems.


Read more articles on Congenital Heart Defects.

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