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UTIs during pregnancy raise baby's heart risk

GPs should test all women trying to conceive for urinary tract infections, to protect infants from an increased risk of congenital heart defects, researchers suggest.

Their study found women who had a UTI around conception or during their first three months of pregnancy were at increased risk of giving birth to a baby with a serious congenital heart defect.

Babies were 1.7-fold more likely to be born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), where the left side of the heart is severely malformed, if their mothers had a UTI during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The retrospective analysis of 3,690 women with children born with HLHS – presented at the American Heart Association annual scientific conference – also suggested the association was present even in women with an asymptomatic UTI, and those who reported having a UTI up to one month before conception.

This prompted lead researcher Dr Sadia Malik, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas, to urge GPs to test all women for a UTI who were either trying to conceive or were in the early stages of pregnancy.

‘Some of the congenital heart defects we looked at are associated with very poor outcomes. HLHS fetuses have 50% mortality, so it's crucial for doctors to do a bacteria urine sample even in asymptomatic women. Treatment reduces risk back to baseline.'

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