Because of medical advances, more women survive congenital heart disease into their reproductive years. As a result, there is an increase in cardiac complications during pregnancy even in women who have had no previous symptoms of heart disease. Age may also be a factor as more women are establishing a career before becoming pregnant.
Women with congenital heart conditions need to consult with their Cardiologist before becoming pregnant. According to Nazanin Moghbeli, MD, MPH, FACC, director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Center at Pennsylvania Hospital:
“Some women with repaired congenital heart disease can have a safe pregnancy with little risk. However, the normal physiological changes that occur during pregnancy, particularly those during the second and third trimesters, can worsen symptoms of congestive heart failure and arrhythmias and cause problems to develop – even in women exhibiting no symptoms before pregnancy. And no two patient situations are alike. A woman with heart disease should see a cardiologist for a full evaluation and risk assessment prior to conception, and a tailored course of treatment personalized to address her particular needs throughout her pregnancy.”
Heart attack risks increase in the last trimester of pregnancy
According to Uri Elkayam, a professor of medicine and obstetrics –gynecology at the University of Southern California:
“Heart attacks affect about one in every 16,000 deliveries, occurring mostly in the last three months of pregnancy or first few weeks after delivery.”
During pregnancy a woman’s body is under more stress than normal so there is an increase in heart attack risk. The heart pumps 40–50% more blood between mother and unborn child. The average heart rate of a pregnant woman may increase by 10 -15 beats per minute. A woman’s cardiovascular demands mimic mild exercise during the third trimester of pregnancy. Hormonal changes may make pregnant women more prone to blood clots. Changes in posture and weight distribution may decrease the body’s ability to return blood from the lower extremities to the heart.
Reduce Your Risk of a
Heart Attack during pregnancy
Prior to pregnancy, consult with your Healthcare Providers to assess your cardiac risk factors, if any. If you are diagnosed with heart disease, you can still have a healthy, full-term pregnancy but it is imperative you discuss pregnancy with a Cardiologist. Your Healthcare Providers will help you develop a heart healthy plan including dietary guidelines, exercise, weight monitoring, medications, and risk reduction. Even though it goes without saying, we’ll say it again: watch blood pressure, limit sodium intake, and stop tobacco, alcohol and risky substance use. Most of all, learn the warning signs of a heart attack. The chances are slim, but you need to prepare yourself so you can take immediate action.
Mom to Babe, Heart to Heart
It’s You Babe medical grade maternity supports may increase venous blood circulation and improve posture during pregnancy. Talk to your Healthcare Provider to determine if one of our garments might relieve your specific circulatory conditions or help you reduce aches and pains during your pregnancy.
Pregnancy and Heart Conditions Resources: