For many children with a congenital heart defect (CHD), doctors do not know the causes of the condition. In some cases, however, physicians have managed to link CHD to several causes including inherited health conditions. Some of these are things you may not have any control over, but others are things you can control. Examples of possible causes of CHD that a prospective mother can control include:
Some, but not all, medicines seem to increase your chances of giving birth to a baby with a malfunctioning heart. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor about any medicine you are taking while pregnant. Even when buying drugs for self-medication, you should tell the prescribing pharmacist about your pregnancy.
A good example of a suspect medicine is those used to control seizures. Another example is lithium, which is used to treat depression. Informing your physician about your pregnancy helps him or her to look for alternative treatments, such as counseling.
Some viral infections have also been linked with congenital heart defects in children. The danger is greatest when you get infected early in your pregnancy when the baby's heart is just developing.
Generally, you should minimize all risks to infections if you are carrying a baby. Specifically, you should be wary of rubella, the virus that has been linked to congenital heart disease. Most people have been immunized against the virus, but there are exceptions. If you have never been immunized against the virus, then you should inform your physician before getting pregnant.
There are also medical conditions that may lead to CHD, especially if they are poorly managed. An example is the rare inherited disorder phenylketonuria (PKU), which results in the dangerous buildup of the essential amino acid phenylalanine. The amino acid is mainly present in high-protein foods, so your doctor will advise you on the correct diet to follow to avoid it.
Another example of a medical condition to be wary of is insulin-dependent diabetes. Sticking to your insulin regime is the way to deal with this condition and lower the risk of CHD for your unborn child.
Lastly, you should also stay away from drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, throughout your pregnancy. According to WebMD, excessive alcohol has been linked to birth defects, but the effects of limited alcohol intake are not well understood. It's best to err on the side of caution and avoid alcohol altogether.
If you are pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about your health and your family's health history. This may help you to gauge your chances giving birth to a baby with a bad heart. Most of these cases are detected soon after birth, and with a good cardiologist, your baby's chance of living a normal life greatly improves.
Get in touch with a local cardiology office for more information on avoiding infant heart issues.