Congenital Heart Disease
The most common of birth defects, congenital heart disease, is a problem that occurs as the baby’s heart is developing during pregnancy, before the baby is born. Congenital heart defects happen during the crucial first eight weeks of the baby’s development. Specific steps must take place in order for the heart to form correctly. Often, congenital heart defects are a result of one of these crucial steps not happening at the right time. For example, a hole is left where a dividing wall should have formed or a single blood vessel is left, where two ought to be. The vast majority of congenital heart defects have no known cause. Mothers will often wonder if something they did during the pregnancy caused the heart problem. In most cases heart defects cannot be attributed to any specific cause.
Congenital heart problems range from simple to complex and can include problems that cause too much blood to pass through the lungs, problems that cause too little blood to pass through the lungs and problems that cause too little blood to travel to the body.
Some heart problems can be monitored by the baby’s doctor and managed with medicines, while others will require surgery, sometimes as soon as in the first few hours after birth. Some of the simpler heart problems, such as atrial septal defect, may simply close up on their own with growth. Other babies will have a combination of defects and require several operations throughout their lives.Previous Page Last Review Date: January 4, 2018