Congenital heart disease often results from problems early in your development, often before you were born. Certain environmental and genetic risk factors may play a role in the development of your heart defect. They include:

  • German measles (rubella). If your mother had rubella while pregnant, this could have affected your heart development.
  • Diabetes. If your mother had type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it may have interfered with the development of your heart. Gestational diabetes generally doesn't increase the risk of developing a heart defect.
  • Medications. Taking certain medications while pregnant is known to cause birth defects, including congenital heart defects. Medications that increase risk include the drug isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Claravis, Sotret), which is used to treat acne, and lithium, which is used to treat bipolar disorder, a condition that causes intense mood swings or hypomania. Drinking alcohol while pregnant may also contribute to the risk of heart defects.
  • Heredity. Congenital heart disease appears to run in families and is associated with many genetic syndromes. Half the children with Down syndrome — which is caused by an extra 21st chromosome (trisomy 21) — have heart defects. A missing piece (deletion) of genetic material on chromosome 22 also causes heart defects. Genetic testing can detect such disorders during a baby's development.
May. 13, 2011