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Mothers of Babies With Congenital Heart Disease At Higher Risk Of Heart Problems Later

Mothers of Babies With Congenital Heart Disease At Higher Risk Of Heart Problems Later

Written by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman, MD
Article Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on April 2, 2018 at 5:49 PM
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  • Mothers of babies born with congenital heart defects may also be at increased risk of developing heart disease later finds study
  • Heart disease is one of the most common birth defects; it affects between 4 and 75 per 1,000 live births

Women giving birth to babies with heart defects may be at increased risk of heart disease later in life, according to recent study that appears in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

Aim of Study

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects.

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Mothers of Babies With Congenital Heart Disease At Higher Risk Of Heart Problems Later

The study hoped to find if there might be any association between having babies with congenital heart defects and development of heart disease in the mothers in future, so that preventive measures and interventions could be instituted earlier.

Details of the Study

  • The study team analyzed data on women who delivered babies between 1989 and 2013 in Quebec, Canada, with either critical, noncritical or no heart defects.
  • Nearly a million women participated in the study
  • The women were followed up for almost 25 years after pregnancy for hospital admissions related to heart disease such as heart attack, heart failure, blood vessel disease and heart transplants

Findings of the Study

In comparison to women who gave birth to babies without Congenital Heart Defects it was found that:
  • Women who gave birth to babies with critical heart defects showed a 43 percent higher risk of any cardiovascular hospitalization
  • Mothers of babies with non-critical heart defects had a 24 percent higher risk of any cardiovascular hospitalization
Thus the findings of the study seem to suggest that there may be an association between giving birth to babies with congenital heart disease and increased risk of heart disease in the mothers at a later date

Higher Heart Disease Risk In Mothers Giving Birth To Babies With CHD - Possible Reasons
  • It is not clear how giving birth to infants with congenital heart disease increases risk of heart disease in the mothers, however the study team feel that there may be a genetic component involved.
  • Also, because 85 percent of babies with heart defects now survive past adolescence, and the psychosocial impact and stress on caregivers of children with heart disease may have a cumulative effect over the long term.
"Caring for infants with critical heart defects is associated with psychosocial and financial stress, which may increase the mothers' long-term risk for cardiovascular disease," said Nathalie Auger, M.D., the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Potential Limitations of Study

  • Most women were young at the start of study, and so for many of them, the 25-year follow-up did not extend beyond menopause, which excluded the highest risk period for heart disease from the point of view of the study.
  • The scientists used available medical data, and did not have detailed risk factor information on the women, such as BMI, smoking history or other medical conditions.
The research team feel the above factors may be addressed in future studies

Takeaway from Study

Heart disease is a leading cause of mortality in women. This study offers an opportunity for these women to be counseled and educated on putting in place preventive measures such as quitting smoking, regular exercise and maintaining healthy weight and following a healthy diet to reduce this risk.

According to Auger, "Those physicians (obstetricians and heath care providers) are very well-positioned to inform women about this possibility i.e. the greater risk of heart disease, and to provide recommendations for targeting other risk factors like smoking, obesity and physical activity."

About Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects are structural abnormalities of the heart or major blood vessels occurring during development of the fetus within the womb. At least 18 different types of congenital heart defects are known, with several anatomic variations. In most cases the cause is not known.

Recent advances in diagnosis and treatment (surgery and heart catheterization) enables treatment of most of these conditions, thus improving the outcome for these persons.

Types of Critical Congenital Heart Diseases (CCHDs)

Critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) refers to a group of heart defects that cause serious, life-threatening symptoms and may require surgery or other procedures within the first few days or first year of life. These include:
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Double-outlet right ventricle
  • Transposition of the great arteries
  • Ebstein anomaly
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Interrupted aortic arch
  • Pulmonary atresia (with intact septum)
  • Single ventricle
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Tricuspid atresia
  • Truncus arteriosus
Reference :
  1. Common Types of Heart Defects - (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/Common-Types-of-Heart-Defects_UCM_307017_Article.jsp#.Wr-rP_lubIU)
  2. Congenital heart defect - (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_heart_defect)
  3. Facts about Critical Congenital Heart Defects - (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/cchd-facts.html)
Source: Medindia

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