So little is known about congenital heart defects (CHDs) that it can leave a new mom feeling helpless. CHD is the most common birth defect in babies, affecting nearly 1% of all births in the United States (roughly 40,000 per year). As a result, it is not uncommon for new moms to be concerned about congenital heart defects, and many wonder how they can reduce their risk of CHD birth defects.
The medical community attributes roughly a quarter of CHD cases to genetic causes, one of the most common being Down’s syndrome. Still, that leaves many cases of congenital heart disease with no known cause. Scientists and doctors have come up with a list of preventative measures a new mom can take in order to reduce the risk of CHD in their newborns. Here are some of the biggest ways you can reduce your risk of having a baby with a congenital heart defect.
Take Folic Acid Before and During Early Pregnancy
Most medical professionals agree that by taking 400mcg of Folic acid leading up to and during the first trimester of pregnancy, a new mom can significantly reduce the chance of their baby developing congenital heart disease as well as other birth defects. Make sure this is part of your routine if you plan to get pregnant, and if you don’t take it leading up to pregnancy, make sure you take these supplements during the first trimester.
Quit Smoking, Drinking, and Don’t Do Drugs
If you carry any of these bad habits during pregnancy, it significantly increases the risk of your baby being born with not just CHD, but a wide range of other birth defects. Be sure to kick these habits when you become pregnant, and get professional help if you are struggling with addiction.
Get Vaccinated Against Rubella and Influenza
Carrying rubella or influenza while pregnant can increase your babies chances of being born with birth defects, CHD included. Make sure you get vaccinated against these diseases to reduce your risk.
Keep Your Diabetes Under Control
Women who have diabetes are at a higher risk of having a child with CHD, especially if your insulin levels are poorly managed during pregnancy. Make sure you closely regulate your diabetes during pregnancy, and try to maintain a healthy diet and do light exercises regularly.
Avoid Harmful Solvents and Substances
Being exposed to harmful organic solvents and cleaning products may put your baby at an increased risk for congenital heart defects. Try to avoid these substances as much as possible. These include common household cleaning products that we use everyday like nail polish remover and glue.
Overall, despite CHD being the most common birth defect, your baby’s risk of developing congenital heart disease is still low. By employing these preventative measures, you can reduce your risk even more. Overall, by staying active and healthy during your pregnancy, you can severely reduce your baby’s risk of CHD, so that should always be part of your pregnancy health plan. Some online support groups for moms can provide additional resources if you think your baby is at a higher risk.