What Causes Heart Defects in Fetus?

Heart defects in fetuses

Heart defects in fetuses, also known as congenital heart defects (CHDs), can have various causes, and in many cases, the exact cause is not known. However, researchers have identified several factors that can contribute to the development of heart defects in unborn babies. Some of the known causes and risk factors include:

  • Genetic factors: Certain genetic mutations or abnormalities can increase the risk of congenital heart defects. These genetic factors can be inherited from one or both parents or occur spontaneously during fetal development.
  • Maternal factors: The health and lifestyle of the mother during pregnancy can play a role. Factors such as maternal diabetes, obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and certain medications can increase the risk of CHDs in the fetus.
  • Viral infections: Some viral infections that a pregnant woman may contract during the first trimester, such as rubella (German measles) or certain strains of the flu, can increase the risk of heart defects in the developing fetus.
  • Medications or drugs: The use of certain medications, especially those known to be teratogenic (causing birth defects), during pregnancy can increase the risk of CHDs.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain environmental toxins and chemicals, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial pollutants, may contribute to the development of heart defects in the fetus.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities: Conditions such as Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) and other chromosomal disorders are associated with a higher risk of congenital heart defects.
  • Maternal age: Advanced maternal age, typically defined as age 35 or older at the time of pregnancy, is associated with an increased risk of having a baby with a heart defect.
  • Family history: If there is a family history of congenital heart defects, there may be a higher risk of having a child with a heart defect.

It’s important to note that in many cases, the cause of congenital heart defects remains unknown, and they may occur without any identifiable risk factors. Additionally, some heart defects can be detected through prenatal screening and diagnostic tests, allowing for early intervention and medical care. The specific type and severity of the heart defect can vary widely, and treatment options depend on the individual case. Pediatric cardiologists and other healthcare professionals can provide guidance and care for infants born with heart defects.

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