Doctors aren't sure why some babies develop pulmonary atresia. However, certain environmental and genetic risk factors may play a role. They include:

  • Rubella (German measles). Having rubella during pregnancy can cause problems in your baby's heart development. Your doctor can test you for immunity to this viral disease before pregnancy and vaccinate you against it if you aren't immune.
  • Diabetes. Having this chronic condition may interfere with the development of your baby's heart. You can reduce the risk by carefully controlling your diabetes before attempting to conceive and during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes generally doesn't increase your baby's risk of developing pulmonary atresia or other heart defects.
  • Medications. Taking certain medications while pregnant is known to cause birth defects. Give your doctor a complete list of the medications you take before attempting to become pregnant. Medications that increase risk include thalidomide (Thalomid) and some anti-seizure medications.
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Avoid alcohol during pregnancy because babies with fetal alcohol syndrome may also develop congenital heart defects.
  • Heredity. Congenital heart defects appear to run in families and are associated with many genetic syndromes. If you already have a child with a congenital heart defect, a genetic counselor can predict the approximate odds that your next child will have one.
Jan. 24, 2013