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Risk factors

It is not known why atrial septal defects occur, but some congenital heart defects appear to be inherited and sometimes occur with other genetic problems, such as down syndrome. If you have a heart defect or you have a child with a heart defect, a genetic consultant can assess the likelihood of defects occurring in future children.

Some conditions that you have during pregnancy can increase the risk of having a child with a heart defect, including:

Rubella infection. Rubella infection during the first few months of pregnancy can increase the risk of fetal heart disease.

Use of drugs, tobacco, alcohol, or exposure to certain medications. The use of certain medications, tobacco, alcohol, or drugs such as cocaine during pregnancy can cause harm to the developing fetus.

Diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus. Diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus can increase the risk of having a child with a heart defect.