Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week
February 7-14, 2013
"Birth Defects are common, costly, and critical."
About 1 in 100 babies are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD)...
making CHDs the most common of all birth defects. This adds up to 40,000 newborns with CHDs per year in the United States, over 300 of those in Utah.
What is a congenital heart defect (CHD)?
- Congenital heart defects or CHDs are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth.
- Common examples include holes in the inside walls of the heart and narrowed or leaky valves. In more severe forms of CHD, blood vessels or heart chambers may be missing, poorly formed, and/or in the wrong place.
How common are congenital heart defects?
- CHDs are the most common birth defect. CHDs occur in almost 1% of births.
- More than 300 babies (or 1 in 100) are born in Utah each year with CHDs.
- CHDs are as common as autism and about twenty-five times more common than cystic fibrosis.
- Thanks to improvements in survival, the number of adults living with CHD is increasing. It is now believed that the number of adults living with CHD is at least equal if not greater than the number of children living with CHD.
What causes congenital heart defects?
- Most causes of CHDs are unknown. Only 15-20% of all CHDs are related to known genetic conditions.
- Most CHDs are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other risk factors, such as environmental exposures and maternal conditions. Because the heart is formed so early in pregnancy, the damage occurs before most women know they are pregnant (during the first 8 weeks after conception). Preventing these factors before a pregnancy is crucial.
- Environmental exposures that may be related to risk of having a CHD include the mother’s diet and certain chemicals and medications. Maternal diabetes is a recognized cause of CHD. Maternal obesity, smoking, and some infections also may raise the risk of having a baby with a CHD.
- A baby’s risk of having a CHD is increased by 3 times if the mother, father, or sibling has a CHD.
What can you do to reduce your risk?
- Preconception Care – Before you get pregnant:
- Take a multivitamin with folic acid (0.4mg day)
- Eat a healthy diet – get to and stay at a healthy weight
- Control diagnosed diabetes
- Stop smoking
- Stop drinking alcohol – there is no safe amount of alcohol
- Talk to your doctor about an medication you are taking