Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How mothers can cause their babies heart defects unknowingly

Moms play the most prominent role in their baby’s life. From conception, pregnancy, birth, and development, the baby’s greatest influence is their mother. This influence will range from mother tongue to as serious an issue as health.

And when it comes to congenital heart diseases, the mother’s wellbeing and lifestyle go a long way in determining if the baby will be born with a congenital heart disease or not. How you may ask?!

According to March of Dimes, a US based health organization that focuses on women and children’s health, the primary effect is based on the mother’s health status. If the mother is of good health, chances of the baby being born with a healthy heart are high.

However if the mother has a health condition, there is increased risk of having a baby with a congenital heart disease. Some of the health conditions that will increase this risk include:


Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal and healthy tissue.

According to Dr. Joe Craft, a professor of rheumatology and immunobiology, apart from kidney damage, the disease also affects joints, the blood, lungs, heart, and skin.

“Kidneys are particularly vulnerable to a condition known as lupus nephritis, in which a patient’s own T cells infiltrate kidney tissue and trigger a decrease in oxygen. This leads to tissue damage and potentially last stage kidney disease,” said Dr. Craft.

In Kenya, about 200,000 people are estimated to suffer from Lupus. Lupus – also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) – is one of the most cost intensive diseases. Every month, the disease can consume over Sh. 200,000. This includes drugs, blood tests, dialysis, and hospital admissions.

Maternal phenylketonuria 

This condition is also known as PKU. With this condition, the mother’s body is unable to break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. “Amnio acids help build protein in your body. Without treatment, phenylalanine builds up in the blood and causes health problems.

Having a baby through a surrogate mother, costs and surrogacy agencies in Kenya

However, the majority of pregnant women with PKU can have healthy babies if they follow a special mean plan that’s low in phenylalanine,” March of Dimes says in an analysis on the relationship between pregnancies and congenital heart diseases.


If you’re obese, you have an excess amount of body fat, and your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. The Centre for Disease Control cautions that childhood obesity is now a direct risk factor for heart diseases later in life.

In addition, young women with obesity are now at an increased rate of developing heart diseases themselves. This increased risk is attributed to the sex hormone progesterone. This hormone is responsible for boosting and sustaining fertility among women.

“Progesterone enables high level of a receptor for the aldosterone hormone, which can damage the vascular system, in the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels (known as endothelial cells),” said Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele from Augusta University’s Vacsular Biology Centre and Department of Medicine in a report on the link between obesity and heart diseases in premenopausal women.

The aldosterone hormone plays the central role in the regulation of blood pressure by increasing the amount of salt – sodium – that is re-absorbed into the bloodstream while increasing the amount of potassium that is excreted in the urine.

Also, young, obese women with cardiovascular problems often have other compounding factors such as diabetes and smoking addictions. In Kenya, obesity has manifested itself as one of the fastest rising health problems for premenopausal women.

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) which was conducted in 2009 indicated that the national prevalence of overweight and obesity for women aged between 15 years and 49 years was 23 per cent.

The KDHS 2014 survey showed that 47.1 per cent of women in central Kenya were either obese or overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 25.3kg/m2. By 2018, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) put the number of women in Kenya who are obese at 13.7 per cent.


This is an infection that causes mild flu-like symptoms and rash on the skin. According to March of Dimes, having rubella during pregnancy may increase your baby’s risk for a CHD.


Taking certain medicines may increase your baby’s risk of having a congenital heart disease. These medicines are strictly supposed to be taken with the express recommendation of a qualified medical professional and within the required dosage.

According to March of Dimes’ heart organization, some of the medications you should consult your physician before taking them:

  • ACE inhibitors: This drug is used to treat high blood pressure or hypertension. High blood pressure is the condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may end up causing heart disease.
  • Lithium: Also known as lithium carbonate and lithium citrate, this drug is authorized by FDA as prescription drugs for bipolar disorder.
  • Statins: These are drugs that work to lower your cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart disease if untamed. Statins are also known to lower the risk of a stroke and heart disease.
  • Isotretinoin: This drug is a form of vitamin A that is used to treat severe nodular acne.
  • Thalidomide: This drug is used to treat certain skin conditions, certain types of cancer , and skin conditions and complications.

Connect With Us


Latest Stories


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here
Captcha verification failed!
CAPTCHA user score failed. Please contact us!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Stories