Heart Problems and Pregnancy....3

Heart Problems and Pregnancy....3

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5... What experts says?

There's a misconception that women living with a heart condition should never get pregnant, but in fact heart disease can be safely managed during pregnancy, says Stephanie Martin, D.O., medical director for labor and delivery and the obstetric intensive care unit at the Texas Children's Pavilion for Women in Houston. "An evaluation is important to determine whether pregnancy is a good idea, but it's very rare that a patient's heart condition would make pregnancy too risky." In some cases, "the hormonal changes in pregnancy actually help a compromised heart work better," adds John Folk, M.D., associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. Women with high-risk a heart condition should always get expert counseling before they conceive, as well as specialized prenatal care to help increase their odds of having a healthy pregnancy.

6... How Pregnancy Affects Your Heart?
Your heart has to pump 40 percent more blood to all of your organs during pregnancy, which means it has to work that much harder than normal. Your blood vessels dilate to accommodate the increased blood flow, lowering your blood pressure, and your blood becomes more likely to clot, which is nature's way of protecting pregnant women from excessive bleeding during childbirth. "A normal heart can handle those changes just fine," Dr. Martin says. "But I tell my patients who have heart issues that pregnancy is like a nine-month treadmill stress test."

7... Preparing for Pregnancy With a Heart Condition
Plan ahead, if possible. Go to your ob-gyn, explain that you're thinking about becoming pregnant, and discuss any testing that you might need. Your doctor may advise that you meet with a maternal fetal medicine expert (someone who specializes in high-risk pregnancies) and/or a cardiologist, who will want to know how you function day-to-day with your heart condition. "The most important thing to do when evaluating a patient before or during pregnancy is assessing whether they are able to do their normal, daily activities," Dr. Folk says. "If you can do all the things you normally would do, including keeping up with exercise and being athletic, and you have that kind of high-functional status, there is a very high likelihood of doing well and having a nice delivery at term." If your daily activity is restricted, doctors can use several different rating systems to determine whether you're able to have a safe pregnancy.


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