Most mothers of babies born with congenital heart disease will look critically at their own behaviors during pregnancy to try to find a cause for their child's illness. It is important to remember that most cases of congenital heart disease have no known cause.
However, some types of congenital heart defects are known to occur more often when the mother comes in contact with certain substances during the first few weeks of pregnancy, while the baby's heart is developing.
Some maternal illnesses and medications taken for these illnesses have been shown to affect the heart's development. Other illnesses or medications seem to have no impact on the baby's heart. Always consult your physician or obstetrician for more information.
Women who have seizure disorders and need to take anti-seizure medications may have a higher risk for having a child with congenital heart disease, as do women who take lithium to treat depression.
Mothers who have phenylketonuria (PKU) who do not adhere to the special diet necessary to manage the disease during pregnancy have a higher risk of having a child with congenital heart disease.
Also, women with insulin-dependent diabetes (particularly if the diabetes is not well-controlled) or lupus may have a higher risk of having a child with heart defects.
Counseling is important for women with these chronic illnesses before becoming pregnant.
Rubella, a virus that most people in the United States either had as a child, or were immunized against when they received the MMR vaccine, is known to cause birth defects. A woman who has never had rubella nor been vaccinated against the disease should consult her physician before becoming pregnant. A mother who contracts rubella during her pregnancy has a very significant chance of having a baby with birth defects, including congenital heart disease.
Always consult your physician before taking any medications while you are pregnant.