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Heart Disease Health Center

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Congenital Heart Defects - What Increases Your Risk

In most cases, the cause of a congenital heart defect isn't known. But certain things increase your baby's chances of having a heart defect. These include:

  • Family history. A child's risk for having a congenital heart defect increases if a brother, sister, or parent has one.
  • Other genetic conditions. For example, Down syndrome has been linked to these defects.
  • Premature birth. Babies born too early have a higher chance of having a heart defect.
  • Chronic conditions. Babies born to women with diabetes or phenylketonuria have a higher chance of having a heart defect.
  • Use of alcohol or drugs during the pregnancy. When a woman drinks alcohol or takes certain drugs while she is pregnant, her baby may develop a heart defect.

If you're concerned about having a baby with a congenital heart defect, you can take steps to lower your risk. For healthy pregnancy choices, see the topic Pregnancy.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

How Can I Prevent Heart Disease?

In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our September 2011 issue, we gave a reader's question about preventing heart disease to James Beckerman, MD, WebMD's heart health expert. Q : Heart disease runs in my family. What can I really do now to help prevent it? A : Cut out these five things to greatly reduce your risk: Smoking (or hanging around with smokers). Smoking is the most dangerous -- yet most reversible...

Read the How Can I Prevent Heart Disease? article > >

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 08, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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