Every pregnancy is at risk
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 40,000 babies are born with heart defects annually. The staggering number is just as frustrating for researchers as it is for heart specialists, especially because most of the defects have no known cause. Anita Moon-Grady, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the fetal cardiovascular program at University of California San Francisco, says, “Of the eight out of every 1,000 babies affected by CHD, the severity of the condition ranges from mild to requiring treatment within the first year of life.” She estimates it’s about three out of those 1,000 babies that will need to have intervention before their first birthday. “Women need to know that they’re at risk during pregnancy because the majority of babies with CHD are born to women with no identifiable risk,” says Dr. Moon-Grady.
There are different types of congenital heart defects
There are several types of heart defects present at birth, and at least 18 have been officially identified along with additional anatomic variations. The AHA considers these the most common types of CHD:
- Aortic Valve Stenosis (AVS): A valve defect that can trap blood inside the heart causing damage
- Atrial Septal Defect (ASD): A hole in the top two chambers of the heart allows oxygenated blood to leak into oxygen-lacking blood chambers of the heart
- d-Transposition of the great arteries: The two main arteries of the heart are reversed, creating an impairment in the blood pathway to the body
- i-Transposition of the great arteries: Less dangerous than d-Transposition, i-Transposition occurs when the right and left lower chambers are reversed, as well as the great arteries, which allows for the body to still direct oxygenated and oxygen-poor blood to the proper locations in the body
- Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA): A narrowing of the aorta that results in high blood pressure and damage to the heart
- Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD): A hole between the two bottom chambers of the heart, resulting in the mixing of oxygen rich and oxygen-poor blood. This can also cause higher pressure in the heart and reduced oxygen throughout the body.