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Mended Little Hearts is dedicated to empowering families affected by congenital heart defects (CHD).

CHD Facts

  • Congenital heart disease are problems with structure and/or function of the heart that is present at birth. Most often they are born to healthy mothers who “did everything right.”
  • The terms “congenital heart defect” and “congenital heart disease” refer to the same condition and can used interchangeably.
  • CHDs are the most common birth defect, occurring in about 1 in 110 births, or nearly 1% of births. That translates into 40,000 infants affected each year in the US.
  • About 25% of babies with CHD will require one or more heart surgeries or procedures to survive. Even with surgery, it is a lifelong, chronic condition.
  • 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.
  • Over 85% of babies born with a CHD now live to at least age 18. It is now believed that the number of adults living with CHDs is at least equal to, if not greater than, the number of children living with CHDs.
  • Oxygen saturation for a healthy person without a CHD is measured in a percentage and is typically 95% to 100%, but this percentage is often lower in children with severe CHDs.
  • Approximately two to three million individuals are thought to be living in the United States with CHDs. Because there is no U.S. system to track CHDs beyond early childhood, more precise estimates are not available.

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  • Because the heart is formed so early in pregnancy, the problem occurs before most women even know they are pregnant.
  • CHDs are as common as autism and about twenty-five times more common than cystic fibrosis.
  • Some heart defects can be detected before birth via ultrasounds and fetal echocardiograms. Others are diagnosed at birth or soon after using pulse oximetry screening (not all states require CHD screening). Still, other CHD’s remain hidden until after a baby leaves the hospital possibly not being discovered until many years later.
  • Most causes of CHDs are unknown. Only 15-20% of all CHDs are related to known genetic conditions. Other genetic issues not yet understood, combined with environmental exposures and maternal conditions are suspected to play a role.
  • Environmental exposures that may be related to risk of having a CHD include the mother’s diet and certain chemicals and medications. Maternal diabetes is a recognized cause of CHDs. Maternal obesity, smoking, and some infections also may raise the risk of having a baby with a CHD. Preventing these risk factors before a pregnancy is crucial.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, daily consumption of 400 micrograms of folic acid has been shown to reduce birth defects in the brain and spinal cord and may help reduce the risk of heart defects as well.
  • People with CHDs are now living long enough to develop illnesses like the rest of the adult population, such as high blood pressure, obesity and acquired heart disease.
  • CHDs are now the most common heart problem in pregnant women.