3 Things Women With Congenital Heart Disease Should Know About Pregnancy
Mar 05, 2015
Today, we expect that most children treated for congenital heart disease will survive to adulthood and lead a full adult life. That means more women with congenital heart disease are interested in pregnancy than ever before. Although most of these women can successfully carry a pregnancy, some are at substantial risk. We strongly encourage all adolescent girls and women with congenital heart disease to discuss reproductive health care and pregnancy with their OB-GYN and cardiologists before becoming pregnant. Here are three reasons why:
Pregnancy puts extra stress on the heart.
At around 12 days after conception, the placenta develops to provide nutrients for the baby and eliminate its waste products. The placenta is implanted in the wall of the uterus, where it receives the mother’s blood and carries out wastes from the baby. This extra demand for nourishment (oxygen) and removal of wastes increases the workload on the mother’s heart and entire cardiovascular system. Although most women go through pregnancy well, many experience symptoms related to the changes that occur with pregnancy.
Women born with a heart defect have added risks during pregnancy.
Women with heart disease are strongly encouraged to use a reliable form of birth control until they are emotionally and physically ready to become pregnant. Although many women with congenital heart disease can have a successful pregnancy, it is important that you talk with your cardiologist before becoming pregnant. It will be necessary for each potential mother with congenital heart disease to undergo a complete cardiac evaluation before becoming pregnant.
Pregnant women with congenital heart disease need expert, continuing care.
Patients with congenital heart disease need specialized care. The Adolescent and Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Nationwide Children’s was created in 2000 specifically to meet these unique medical needs. Our program at The Heart Center has become one of the largest and leading ACHD programs in the U.S.
Please note that there are additional considerations for pregnant women with congenital heart disease, including medication usage, as well as potential complications for the mother and risks to the baby. These are all reviewed in our free e-book, What women with congenital heart disease need to know about pregnancy.
Remember, continuing your care means a longer life. Whatever is standing in your way of seeking ongoing care – whether you feel you’re “healed” or you’re tired of dealing with health issues or you have financial or other concerns – we hope you’ll contact us about the special kind of comprehensive care we provide to adults with congenital heart disease at The Heart Center.
Curt J. Daniels, MD, is Director of the Adolescent and Adult Congenital
Heart Disease Program at The Heart Center at Nationwide Children's
Hospital. He is Associate Professor of Clinical Cardiology at The Ohio
State University College of Medicine.
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