A woman who gives giving birth at older age, above 35 years, has higher chances of her having babies with heart problems.
This is because there are increased health risks associated with later-age pregnancies, according to Dr. Twalib Aliku, a paediatric cardiologist at the Uganda Heart Institute,
“Taking of excessive amounts of alcohol, or having chronic medical diseases like diabetes can result in congenital heart problems,” he adds.
According to Dr. Sulaiman Lubega, a paediatric cardiologist, the major cause of heart defects among children is unknown. Even mothers who are very cautious during pregnancy, for instance by staying away from alcohol and smoking, can still have a child with a heart defect.
Aliku says some heart conditions may not be noticed during pregnancy and can cause death of the baby a few days after birth. A heart condition can also result from an infection such as streptococcus. “But some infections can be avoided,” Lubega adds.
Aliku says premature birth also affects the growth of a baby’s organs like the heart; the blood vessels may not have developed fully resulting in a congenital heart disease called patent ductus arteriosus. A mother having infections like HIV, rubella, syphilis or even malaria can cause pre-term birth, predisposing the babies to heart disease.
“When a pregnant woman takes strong medication like epilepsy drugs, it may damage the heart of the unborn baby,” he adds.