Heart Problems and Pregnancy....6

Heart Problems and Pregnancy....6

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10... Pregnancy and Heart problems
Sarah Brealey explores issues of pregnancy and your heart and meets two women who fought back from health issues.
“In this country, pregnancy is low risk,” says Dr Sara Thorne, a Consultant Cardiologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, who specialises in adult congentital heart disease and heart disease in pregnancy.
“That said, heart disease is the biggest single cause of maternal deaths in the UK. There is a 50 per cent increase in how much your heart has to do by the end of the first trimester; that has to be sustained for six months.”
If you have a heart condition, get specialist advice before trying to conceive. “It’s important to see the right cardiologist, preferably alongside an obstetrician,” advises Dr Thorne. “If you’re being seen by a congenital heart disease service, they should have the right degree of knowledge, but if you’re seeing a general cardiologist, you may need to ask to be referred to a specialist.”
Pregnancy women statsShe says women should be particularly careful if they suffer from Cardiomyopathy or diseases affecting the aorta (such as Marfan syndrome or Loeys–Dietz syndrome) or mitral or aortic valve stenosis.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (which is rare but more common in women) can be extremely dangerous in pregnancy, so women would usually be advised against having a child.
“It’s important not to fall pregnant accidentally,” says Dr Thorne. “Think about contraception. There are several heart conditions where you will not be able to take the combined pill. If you are taking a progestogen-only pill, get advice to ensure you choose the most effective one.
“Pregnancy may make your condition worse, so consider how you would cope with a baby,” adds Dr Thorne. “And if you have a heart condition, it may be better to have your family in your 20s – don’t put it off.”
Some women won’t realise they have heart conditions until problems arise and, although numbers are small, heart attacks are one of the biggest causes of maternal death in the developing world. It’s worth reducing your risks before you get pregnant. “Lose weight if you are overweight, take regular exercise, stop smoking and manage issues like high blood pressure,” says Dr Thorne.


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