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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.

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    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 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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