A team of University of Oxford researchers, funded by the British Heart Foundation, have identified an entirely new risk factor for congenital heart disease (CHD). Using an animal model system, researchers have shown that if the mother is severely iron deficient and anaemic during early pregnancy, this greatly increases the risk that her offspring will have heart defects.
CHD is the most common human birth defect, affecting 12 babies born each day in the UK. Babies with CHD are born with one or more structural defects caused when the heart does not develop properly in the womb. It is a major cause of infant mortality and requires ongoing medical treatment throughout life. Yet, despite the prevalence of the condition, we do not always know why it happens.