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Congenital Heart Defects: What is it?

A baby can develop heart defects during, after the child’s birth or even before the child is born. However, the most common heart defects in babies are congenital; that which develop before the child’s birth. Congenital heart defects affect the way a baby’s heart is made and how it functions.

The primary cause/s of congenital heart defects is unknown.

It may occur due to the change in genes, chromosomes or some other risk factors. Some studies have established that pregnant mothers, who smoke or are obese or have diabetes, increase the chances of a baby born with congenital heart defects.

Congenital Heart Defects

A baby may be born with one or more than one congenital heart defects. Out of all the congenital defects, some are mild and do not require any treatment at all throughout the baby’s life. Some others however, are life threatening and may need medical attention.

The most common congenital defect is a hole in the heart (septum defect).

In this condition, the septum that separates the right and left ventricles of the heart is not fully formed. This results into the oxygenated blood being leaked into the right ventricle from the left instead of going into the aorta. Such holes if small heal on their own while bigger holes may require surgery or a patchwork. Some other congenital heart defects are Tetralogy Of Fallot, Aortic Stenosis, Patent Ductus Arterious, etc.

Causes Of Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects are a result of improper development of the heart of the fetus.

There are multiple factors that may cause a congenital heart defect in the baby. When the parents’ genes combine with certain environmental factors prevalent at the time, it may lead to the development of a certain condition.

They may also occur if the pregnant mother comes in contact with certain substances or is taking certain medication. Women who are on anti-seizure medications have a greater risk of having a baby with a congenital heart defect. Women who are being treated with lithium for depression or diabetic mothers who are dependent on insulin may give birth to a baby with a heart defect. Also, a family history of a congenital heart defect increases the risk factor.

Treating Congenital Heart Defects

Some children do not require any treatment for their heart defect while some others can be treated with a surgery or catheter procedure. The treatment also depends upon the type of defect, its severity, the age and other factors of a child’s health.

Preventing Congenital Heart Defects

The pregnant mother can ask the doctor to inspect the list of medications she takes in order to replace any medication that may harm the baby. Also, an obese or a diabetic mother can ensure a healthy diet so as to cut down on her medications. Women who smoke should avoid doing so when pregnant. If there is a family history of congenital defects, the doctor is to be consulted in the pregnancy stage itself to take precautionary measures.

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