Congenital heart defects are malformations of the heart that occur before birth. Put simply, some part of the heart did not develop properly in the womb and the functioning of the heart has been affected. Congenital heart defects, also known as congenital cardiovascular malformations or CCVMs, are rare. Although they are not found only in premature babies, some heart defects may put a baby at risk for premature birth.
Despite advances in ultrasound and other imaging technologies, congenital heart defects usually only become apparent after birth. When premature babies are born with these types of heart problems, treatment is often complicated by the baby’s immaturity and small size, the relative fragility of the premature baby, and other coexisting complications of prematurity.
Congenital heart defects have varying degrees of severity. Some malformations are minor and only mildly affect heart function. Others are more serious.