Most women with congenital heart disease (CHD) can have a successful pregnancy, although doing so requires careful planning and management.
Should I talk to my doctor beforehand?
You should discuss with your adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) doctor or your obstetrician (OB), and your primary healthcare provider before you get pregnant. Each person’s follow-up during pregnancy is different. Your team of medical specialists will let you know how often you need to have a check up. It is important to go to these appointments and let them know if you notice any unexpected signs or symptoms in your body.
How about medications?
Any medication you take during pregnancy can affect your baby. Usually, the benefits outweigh the risks, however. If you need medication to control your heart condition, your medical professional will prescribe the safest medication at the most appropriate dose. And remember to take the medication exactly as prescribed. Avoid adjusting the dose on your own or stop taking the medication.
What happens to the heart during pregnancy?
Your heart has to pump 40% more blood to all of your organs during pregnancy, as a matter of fact, it has to work that much harder than normal. Your blood vessels dilate to adapt the increased blood flow, thus lowering your blood pressure. And your blood may become more likely to clot, which is, however, a natural way of preventing pregnant women from excessive bleeding during childbirth. A normal heart can handle those changes just fine, but it is like a nine-month treadmill stress test to those with heart disease.
What happens during labor and delivery?
In the third trimester and during labor and delivery, special attention should be given by your specialist team. As your uterus contracts, more blood is abruptly pushed out into the body, hence your heart has to work harder and your heart rate and blood pressure increase due to pain and anxiety. Pregnant women can also lose blood during delivery.
Can I deliver vaginally?
Most women with CHD can deliver vaginally. In fact, this is the recommended method. Delivery by C-section is used only in cases where it is medically necessary due to obstetric reasons.
What are my risks?
Based on how well the heart is working and how much damage you have, complications during pregnancy include irregular heartbeats, racing of the heart and heart failure. To guarantee a successful outcome for both the mother and baby, each of these complications should be well handled and treated.
What are the risks to my baby?
Pregnancy in women with CHD may lead to miscarriage, birth defects, premature birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth. Therefore, taking proper care of your own health is the best way to ensure the well-being of your baby.
Is there anything I can do to decrease the risks?
Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. For instance:
- Have a medical check frequently.
- Take your medication as prescribed.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Control your weight.
- Manage anxiety and your mental health.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and illegal drugs.
With proper management, most women with CHD can have a successful pregnancy. Consult and discuss with your ACHD cardiologist and high-risk OB before you get pregnant.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.