About Congenital Heart Defects | Overview
"Congenital" describes any condition that exists at birth. However, many congenital conditions are not identified until days, weeks, months or even years after a baby is born.
Congenital heart defects are the most frequently occurring birth defect. Approximately, 1 out of every 100 babies born in the Unites States has congenital heart disease (CHD). In other words, the incidence of CHD in the U.S. (# of babies born each year with CHD in the U.S.) is 25 to 40,000.
A baby's heart begins to develop 3 weeks post conception and is completely formed by 8 weeks gestation. Therefore, most CHDs occur during these crucial first 8 weeks of development.
Specific steps must take place in order for the heart to form correctly. Often, CHDs are the result of problems in one or more of these crucial steps. Possible problems include steps not occurring, taking place at the wrong time, or happening in the wrong order. Sometimes, it is possible to associate specific environmental and/or genetic factors to errors in the development of the heart.