What causes babies to be born with heart problems?

Congenital heart diseases - Sriramakrishnahospital

Heart defects in babies are generally referred to as congenital heart defects. Congenital disabilities in the structure of the heart or great vessels are medically referred to as congenital heart defects (CHD), congenital heart abnormalities, or congenital heart disease. One type of cardiovascular disease is a congenital heart defect. The symptoms and signs manifested by a deficiency are condition-specific. 

The severity of the symptoms of congenital heart disease in babies varies from being absent to being fatal. Some signs are rapid breathing, cyanosis (pale complexion), inability to gain weight, and extreme fatigue. 

The discomfort felt in the chest region is not due to coronary heart disease. Most cardiac abnormalities are diagnosed in infancy and have no known correlation to other illnesses. This article provides information on what causes heart problems in babies.

What causes babies to be born with heart problems?

Most occurrences of congenital cardiac defects in newborns have no identifiable cause.  But usually, an unborn baby with heart defects can also be detected. A varying number of chromosomes in a fetus has been related to certain forms of congenital cardiac dysfunction. Potentially, they have a genetic origin. There’s also a chance that environmental elements are involved. 

Most occurrences of congenital cardiac disease have no identifiable cause. It is widely believed that a combination of elements is to blame for them. In most cases, both genetics and environmental influences are at play. The following may be the reasons,

Maternal factors:

Many incidences of cardiac defects in newborns have unknown origins. However, early maternal exposure to certain chemicals increases the risk of certain forms of congenital cardiac abnormality. 

A baby’s heart develops at this time. Maternal health issues can impact the development of a baby’s heart and the medications used to treat them. The newborn’s heart seems unaffected by any other ailments or medications. If you have concerns about your newborn’s heart health, please contact your neonatal doctor

Family history:

About one in 100 babies is born with a cardiac problem every year if a first-degree relative has CHD, the individual’s chance of developing CHD increases by a factor of three.

The inheritance pattern of some heart abnormalities is autosomal dominant. With each pregnancy, a parent with the defect has a 50% risk of having a child with the same abnormality. Both sexes are similarly impacted. A baby also has a 50% probability of being unaffected.

Chromosome abnormalities:

The DNA instructions for making proteins are stored in structures called chromosomes in your cells. Characteristics like hair colour and eye shape are written in your DNA. Each human cell typically contains 46 chromosomes. 

An abnormal number of chromosomes is associated with various health issues and fetal abnormalities. Sometimes chromosomes can have abnormalities in their structure. This refers to the situation in which a chromosome is incomplete. Additionally, it could be a copy. Problems with health are another effect of this.

Babies with chromosomal abnormalities that cause genetic syndromes like Down syndrome are at an increased risk of developing cardiac defects. About 30 percent of infants born with chromosomal disorders also have heart defects.

Single gene defects:

Each of our 46 chromosomes contains approximately 70,000 genes. Most genes exist as a pair. Each pair of genes consists of maternally inherited and paternally inherited genes. Our qualities are, in part, governed by our genes. 

Further, gene alterations may be caused by them, posing health risks (mutations). Alterations to even a single gene can cause a cascade of potentially dangerous health issues. When many symptoms share a common source, it is called a syndrome.

The signs of a baby that can indicate congenital heart disease:

Critical congenital cardiac abnormalities are typically diagnosed within the first few weeks or months of life. Symptoms of congenital heart disease in babies may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Gray or blue coloration of the mouth, tongue, or fingernails (cyanosis)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Swelling in the lower extremities, midsection, or eyelids
  • Difficulty breathing during feedings, resulting in low weight.

The different types of congenital heart defects in children:

Each child is different; hence not all children get the same type of defect; here are some of the most common heart defects in newborns:

  • Aortic valve stenosis
  • Atrial septal defect
  • Coarctation of the Aorta 

Heart problems in babies – the treatment recommendations offered:

The severity and kind of congenital heart abnormality a kid has will determine the course of treatment. Some children with congenital cardiac defects may not need immediate medical attention. Some genetic heart problems, such as a small hole in the heart, can sometimes be repaired as child ages. Congenital heart defects generally, when not treated, can result in congenital heart failure.

In cases of severe congenital heart abnormalities, prompt medical attention is essential.


Congenital heart defects can be medicated for the symptoms and complications they cause. They are helpful on their own or in conjunction with other cardiac procedures.

Surgical options that are involved in the treatment:

A neonatal doctor may recommend a heart procedure or surgery if your child has a severe congenital heart problem. Common cardiac operations and techniques used to repair congenital heart abnormalities are:

Cardiac catheterization:

Catheters are thin, flexible tubes that can treat some congenital heart abnormalities without having to do open-heart surgery. Cardiac catheterization, for instance, may be used to repair heart defects like holes or narrowings.

Heart surgery:

Catheters are thin, flexible tubes that can treat some congenital heart abnormalities without having to do open-heart surgery. Cardiac catheterization, for instance, may be used to repair heart defects like holes or narrowings.

Fetal cardiac intervention:

Very rarely can a significant issue be corrected, or the risk of future difficulties is mitigated by surgery performed on an unborn baby with heart defects. There are particular cases where fetal cardiac intervention is possible.

Prognosis of heart problems in babies:

Congenital heart disease occurs in almost 2,000 babies in India; with the medical advancements in the diagnosis, we can identify them early, making congenital heart disease treatment for babies much smoother. Though the cause of these heart diseases is not evident, they tend to affect a larger percentage of babies.

Congenital heart diseases-Sriramakrishnahospital

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