Heart disease and pregnancy
Pregnancy puts a lot of stress of the heart. However women with heart disease go on to have healthy babies. During pregnancy blood volume increase by 30 to 50 % to nourish the growing baby. Therefore the amount of blood the heart pumps each minute increases by 30 to 50%. This causes an increase in your heart rate as well.
During labor and delivery, there is an increase in the workload of your heart. During labor especially when you push, you will notice an abrupt change in pressure and blood flow. After your baby is born, decreased blood flow to the uterus also stresses the heart.
What are the risks associated with heart disease during pregnancy.
The risk depends on the nature and severity of the heart disease.
Congenital heart defect : If you were born with some kind of heart defect, your baby is at risk of developing some type of heart defects too.
Heart valve disease : If you have an artificial heart or valve or your valves are scarred or malformed, it increases your risk of pregnancy complications. You may have trouble tolerating increased blood flow if your valves aren’t working well.
Abnormal or artificial valves also increase your risk endocarditis. Mechanical artificial heart poses a risk during pregnancy. This is due to the need to adjust to blood thinners and potential life threatening clotting of the valves.
Problems with heart rhythm : Heart rhythm abnormalities are common during pregnancy but are usually no cause for concern.
Congestive heart failure : Congestive heart failure gets worse as blood volume increases.
Other heart conditions such as problems with the mitral valve or aortic valve can pose life threatening risk to the mother or baby. Depending on the circumstance, treatments such as heart surgery may be required before trying to conceive.
A rare congenital disease such as Eisenmenger’s syndrome or high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart (pulmonary hypertension) poses such a high risk in women such that pregnancy is not recommended.
How do i reduce my risk for complications ?
These steps can help you reduce your risk of pregnancy complications .
- get early and regular prenatal care
- take your medications as prescribed
- get adequate rest and avoid strenuous exercises
- gain the right amount of weight . Gaining too much weight could add more stress to your heart
- avoid smoking, drinking and illegal drugs
- manage anxiety and stress
Call your doctor if you experience the following symptoms.
- shortness of breath
- difficulty breathing
- bloody cough or coughing at night
- heart palpitations, rapid heart rate or irregular pulse
- chest pain
What can I expect during prenatal visits? Mayo Foundation. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20045977?pg=2. Accessed July 1 , 2015
Heart disease and pregnancy. Merck Manual. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/pregnancy-complicated-by-disease/heart-disorders-in-pregnancy.Accessed July 1, 2015