In most cases, you can't do anything to prevent having a baby with a ventricular septal defect. However, it's important to do everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy. Here are the basics:

  • Get early prenatal care, even before you're pregnant. Quitting smoking, reducing stress, stopping birth control — these are all things to talk to your doctor about before you get pregnant. Also, be sure you talk to your doctor about any medications you're taking.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Include a vitamin supplement that contains folic acid. Also, limit caffeine.
  • Exercise regularly. Work with your doctor to develop an exercise plan that's right for you.
  • Avoid risks. These include harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drugs. Also, avoid X-rays, hot tubs and saunas.
  • Avoid infections. Be sure you're up to date on all of your vaccinations before becoming pregnant. Certain types of infections can be harmful to a developing fetus.
  • Keep diabetes under control. If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to be sure it's well controlled before getting pregnant.

If you have a family history of heart defects or other genetic disorders, consider talking with a genetic counselor before getting pregnant.

Oct. 26, 2011