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Congenital heart disease

  • Prevention

    Avoid alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy. Doctors should be made aware that a woman is pregnant before prescribing any medications for her. A blood test should be done early in the pregnancy to see if the woman is immune to rubella. If the mother is not immune, she must avoid any possible exposure to rubella and should be immunized immediately following delivery.

    Poorly controlled blood sugar levels in women who have diabetes during pregnancy are also associated with a high rate of congenital heart defects during pregnancy.

    Experts believe that some prescription and over-the-counter medications and street drugs used during pregnancy increase the risk of heart defects.

    There may be some hereditary factors that play a role in congenital heart disease. Genetics does appear to play a role in many diseases, and multiple family members may be affected. Talk to your health care provider about screening.

    Expectant mothers should receive good prenatal care. Many congenital defects can be discovered on routine ultrasound examinations performed by an obstetrician. The delivery can then be anticipated and the appropriate medical personnel (such as a pediatric cardiologist, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and a neonatologist) can be present, and ready to help as necessary. Such preparation can mean the difference between life and death for some babies.


    References

    Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 8th ed. St. Louis, Mo; WB Saunders; 2007.