Understanding Congenital Heart Defects (Heart Health)
The term “congenital heart defect” indicates that a structural problem (or defect) in a baby’s heart is present at birth. A baby’s heart begins to form shortly after conception. By the end of the second month of pregnancy, the baby’s heart is completely formed. It is during this time that a congenital heart defect can occur. In this case, a part of the heart, heart valves, and/or blood vessels near the heart do not develop properly. When this happens, blood flow can:
Go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place
Be blocked completely
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of major birth defect, and more than 30,000 babies are born with this condition in the United States each year. Today, the outlook for an infant born with a heart defect is much better than it was 30 years ago. Rapid advances in infant and childhood surgery, better tests, and new medicines help most children with congenital heart defects. Many children born with more complex or severe heart defects now reach adulthood. Today, there are more than 1 million adults living with congenital heart disease.