Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are the most common birth defects, occurring in about 1 in 110 births.

Due to medical advances, there are now more people with a CHD reaching adulthood than ever before.

This webpage provides information about CHDs, prevention steps for prospective parents and resources for specialized care.

About Congenital Heart Defects

Nearly 40,000 infants are born with CHDs each year in the United States. CHDs affect the structure and function of the heart, including how blood flows through the heart and out to the rest of the body. Common examples include holes in different areas of the heart and narrow or leaky valves.

Of the 2.4 million people in the U.S. living with a CHD, more than half are adults, and that number is expected to rise 5% every year. However, adults with CHDs have 3 – 4 times higher rates of Emergency Room visits, hospitalizations, and Intensive Care Unit stays than the general population.

Prevention Activities

CHDs are the most common birth defects that cause infant death. While most causes of CHDs are unknown, there may be prevention activities that prospective mothers (and fathers) can do to help increase the chance of having a baby with a healthy heart:

A baby’s risk of having a CHD is increased by 3 times if the mother, father, or sibling has a CHD. People with CHDs should speak to their health care providers about preconception counseling to find out if they are able to have a safe or low-risk pregnancy.

Adult Specialized Care

Many people with CHDs are not cured with one surgery and require specialized health care throughout their lives. People with CHDs face a life-long risk of health problems such as:

  • issues with growth and eating,
  • developmental delays,
  • difficulty with exercise,
  • heart rhythm problems,
  • heart failure,
  • sudden cardiac arrest or stroke.