Cardiac Diseases and Pregnancy

Cardiac Diseases and Pregnancy

Cardiac problems may start during pregnancy in women without a history of heart issues. Certain heart diagnoses carry a very low risk to the mother and the fetus. These include:

Women and heart valve disorders

Women with pulmonic valve disease and tricuspid valve disease may have uncomplicated pregnancies. Mitral valve prolapse often does not affect pregnancy. In fact, the prolapse may decrease due to heart changes caused by pregnancy. However, other types of valve disorders may cause problems during pregnancy. These include mitral or aortic stenosis. To have a successful pregnancy, women with heart valve disease need:

  • Specialized care
  • A preconception evaluation 
  • To keep taking certain medications
  • Close observation, including specialized monitoring during labor and delivery

Women and pulmonary hypertension

Women with pulmonary hypertension (elevated lung pressures) have a higher risk of problems during pregnancy. Women who have cyanosis (low blood oxygen) after surgery for pulmonary hypertension are at risk for complications, such as:

  • Maternal health issues
  • Premature or small baby
  • Death during pregnancy

Women with poor heart function before pregnancy often cannot handle the increased circulation of pregnancy. This causes them to have symptoms. Women with heart symptoms at rest are also likely to have complications later in pregnancy.

Women and arrhythmias

Arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms) may occur for the first time or more often during pregnancy. In women with structurally normal hearts, arrhythmias do not tend to cause problems. However, your healthcare provider should understand and treat your arrhythmia. For women who develop atrial fibrillation, it is important to look for the underlying heart problem. Atrial fibrillation is often linked with valvular heart disease, hyperthyroidism, pulmonary embolism or hypertension.

Women and heart failure

Heart failure (fluid overload) may occur when the mother cannot handle the increased volume during pregnancy. These women may develop heart failure for many reasons. These can include an underlying heart valve diagnosis, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy or unknown causes.

Women and cardiomyopathy

A small number of women will develop cardiomyopathy. This is weakening of the heart muscle is caused by pregnancy. It may occur at the end of pregnancy or months after childbirth. It is not clear why this happens. Women may not have a complete recovery and it may happen again in future pregnancies. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you do not get pregnant again.

Women and heart attack

In rare cases, pregnant women may have a myocardial infarction (heart attack). Heart attacks during pregnancy are managed in the same way as heart attacks in non-pregnant people. Your healthcare provider will recommend treatment options.

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