Facts About Congenital Heart Disease


The heart disease present at birth is called congenital heart disease (CHD). The prevalence of the disease is about 0.5%-0.8% of the live births (8/1000).

It is a major cause of death (after prematurity) in the first year of life. There was a time when people used to wonder how can a newborn have heart disease.

Now, the technology has advanced so much that we can diagnose it in the mother's womb when the foetus is barely 22 weeks old!

This disease can be grouped into two, first being the simple congenital heart disease and second being the complex congenital heart disease.

Today, the incidence of CHD is increasing day by day because of the ignorance and increase in the bad habits of young child-bearing women.

causes of congenital heart disease

Causes For CHD:

  • Obesity and diabetes mellitus
  • Viral fever, especially Rubella syndrome (German measles)
  • Taking harmful medicines for sleeping, anxiety, bronchial asthma, fits (convulsions), depression, narcotics like cocaine and heroine, hair dye or ingesting pesticides in food
  • Exposure to X-rays during the first 3 months of pregnancy
  • Consumption of alcohol and tobacco in any form
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Native drugs used for abortion, in which the foetus does not get aborted, as it will be born with complex congenital diseases
  • If mother has heart disease or previous child has heart disease

Apart from all these, even late pregnancy can cause a higher incidence of Down's syndrome, in which apart from mental retardation and physical abnormalities, 50% of them can have complex atrioventricular (AV) canal defect in the heart.

Also Read: 5 Heriditary Diseases To Watch Out For

The Baltimore study has shown that indulging in smoking and drinking alcohol can increase the incidence of blockage in the right side of the heart and hole in the heart.

Nowadays, it is shown that there is a chance of alcohol foetal syndrome (AFS), in which apart from heart disease, the brain development is stunted and the child is born with a small head!

causes of congenital heart disease

How to make out if neonate has CHD?
If the child does not cry soon after birth, it is blue (cyanotic), struggling to breath, has lower chest retraction, increased pre-cordial activity and gets pneumonia or has repeated respiratory infections, these are the cases to suggest CHD in the newborn.

Suckling the breast milk is an exercise; and if child is not able to drink breast milk for 10 minutes and rests in between, which makes the baby feel breathless on breastfeeding, it indicates that the heart is weak.

During immunisation, if the paediatrician finds a murmur sound in the heart, he/she would suggest you to consult a paediatric cardiologist for further evaluations.

How to prevent CHD?
Remember all the don'ts when pregnant. Never ever indulge in alcohol or smoking and never take any medicine, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Start taking folic acid even before conceiving and continue to prevent CHD in your to-be born child. Motherhood is the greatest boon, so never make it a nightmare by over-indulgence.

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She is the former Professor of Paediatric Cardiology at Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, Bengaluru.
Read more about: heart, disease, newborn, prevention
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