p-iStock_000000474495MediumThe term “congenital” refers to a condition that was present at birth. Many types of congenital heart defects can be discovered during pregnancy and include things like heart valve defects, muscle issues, poor connections among blood vessels, or problems with the wall of the heart. In most cases, these defects can be fixed with surgery. However, some patients will experience symptoms of congenital heart disease later in life.

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors associated with congenital heart disease.

  • Diabetes is a potential risk factor of congenital heart disease. During pregnancy, diabetes should be kept under control to avoid any complications.
  • Drinking or smoking will increase a baby’s risk of developing a heart condition.
  • Medications used during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of congenital heart defects. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, statins, lithium, thalidomide (Thalomid), and even acne medication isotretinoin can contribute.
  • Heredity can also play a role. Children with Down syndrome (the result of an extra 21st chromosome) can contribute to heart defects.

How They Develop

The baby’s heart begins taking shape during the first six weeks of pregnancy along with the blood vessels that run to and from from the heart. This is a crucial time during the development of the baby’s body and is also the time when congenital heart defects can start to take form. Unfortunately, not all defects can be detected before birth, and some are left unchecked during infancy as well. It’s not unusual for an adult to be experiencing symptoms of a congenital heart defect.

While we generally do not treat children under the age of 17 for congenital heart disease here at Stockton Cardiology, we can help make referrals to other physicians or resources who do. Get in touch with us to get started.