As so little is known about the causes of congenital heart disease, there's no guaranteed way of avoiding having a baby with the condition.
However, if you're pregnant, the following advice can help reduce the risk:
- Ensure you are vaccinated against rubella and flu.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
- Take 400 micrograms of folic acid supplement a day during the first trimester (first 12 weeks) of your pregnancy – this lowers your risk of giving birth to a child with congenital heart disease, as well as several other types of birth defect.
- Check with your GP or pharmacist before you take any medication during pregnancy, including herbal remedies and medication that's available over the counter.
- Avoid contact with people who are known to have an infection.
- If you have diabetes, make sure it's controlled.
- Avoid exposure to organic solvents, such as those used in dry cleaning, paint thinners and nail polish remover.
See vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy, infections in pregnancy and your antenatal care for more information and advice.
If you have congenital heart disease and become pregnant, your congenital heart specialist will usually arrange an echocardiogram (heart scan) for your baby approximately 20 weeks into your pregnancy. This is to check whether your baby has any evidence of congenital heart disease. This scan will be in addition to your usual antenatal ultrasound scans.