What are the possible causes of congenital heart defects?

Updated at: Sep 11, 2017
What are the possible causes of congenital heart defects?

Congenital heart defects disrupt the development of a fetus' heart from the 5th month of pregnancy. If you want to bear a healthy baby, make sure you keep these risk factors in check.

Bhadra Kamalasanan
Heart HealthWritten by: Bhadra KamalasananPublished at: Sep 11, 2017

Congenital heart disease is something that develops at the time of birth and is marked by a disruption in the normal development of the heart. It is said that most cases of congenital heart diseases develop when something that affects the development of the heart at the time of the fifth month of pregnancy. This is the time when the foetus’ heart develops from a simple tube-like structure into a shape that is like a fully developed heart.

Causes of congenital heart defects 

There are a number of reasons or risks that increase a baby’s prospect of developing congenital heart defects. Some of these are as follows: 

Genetic conditions 

There are a lot of medical problems that can predispose a baby to develop congenital heart defects. Some of these include Down’s syndrome, turner syndrome and Noonan syndrome. 

Maternal diabetes 

Those women who have diabetes are five times more likely to give birth to baby with congenital heart disease compared with women who do not have diabetes. 3 to 6 percent of women with diabetes who end of becoming pregnant will give birth to a baby that has some sort of a heart defect. The most common type of heart defect in these women is the transposition of the great arteries. This increased risk of developing birth defect applies to those women who have type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes and not gestational diabetes. This is because gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. 


If a pregnant woman drinks a lot of alcohol at the time of pregnancy, it can have a dangerous effect on the tissue of the fetus. This is referred to as foetal alcohol syndrome. It has been estimated that as many as half of all the children with foetal alcohol syndrome will develop congenital heart disease, which is most commonly divided into ventricular or atrial septal defects. The Department of Health recommends that pregnant women avoid drinking much alcohol. 


Women who develop flu during the first trimester of pregnancy are highly likely to give birth to a baby suffering from congenital heart diseases compared with the general population. The exact reason/s why this happens remains unclear. All pregnant women are recommended to take flu vaccine. 


Certain medications can increase the prospect of a baby being born with congenital heart disease. These medications include those that are prescribed for seizure, acne and pain. Speak to your doctor before self-prescribing OTC medications for the above health problems.

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