Birth defects of the heart, known as congenital
heart defects, or CHDs, are birth defects that can affect the structure of a baby’s
heart and the way it works. They can affect how blood flows through the heart and out
to the rest of the body. CHDs can vary from mild, such as a small hole in the heart, to
severe, such as missing or poorly formed parts of the heart. CHDs are the most common birth
defect in babies born in the United States. About one in 100 babies is born with a CHD.
The most common type of CHD is a ventricular septal defect, or VSD, which is a hole in
the wall between the lower chambers of the heart. While some, especially severe, CHDs might
be detected during pregnancy, some aren’t detected until after birth or later in life.
During pregnancy, an ultrasound at 11 to 13 weeks will look for extra fluid on the baby’s
neck, which may suggest a CHD. If a CHD is suspected, your doctor might order a special
ultrasound for the heart, called a fetal echocardiogram. At birth, a CHD might be suspected if the
baby has gray or blue skin, fast breathing, or a heart murmur.