When preparing for pregnancy, considering your medical history is an important thing to do. Having a laid out plan to assure not only a safe pregnancy but a communicative dynamic between you and the doctor will prepare you for the journey ahead. In particular, your heart health plays a fundamental role during pregnancy.
What you need to know about your heart health and pregnancy:
- Your heart works harder when you are pregnant.
- There is a correlation between heart disease and pregnancy.
- Pregnancy can cause strain on your heart.
- If you have a congenital heart defect, your unborn child has a greater risk of developing the same defect.
Below are some guidelines that can help you navigate your heart health through your pregnancy.
Congenital Heart Defect
It’s vital to be well informed about your heart health for many reasons, but especially so if you were born with any type of congenital heart defect. Women that have a heart condition should discuss getting pregnant with their health care provider beforehand due to the higher health-related risks.
If you do get pregnant and you haven’t followed up on your condition, now is the time. Due to the amount of stress pregnancy can place on the heart, you can run the risk of heart problems occurring during this time and/or premature birth. Seeing a cardiologist to follow up on the condition can help your doctor take the proper measures needed. You may also want to schedule a fetal echocardiogram between 18-24 weeks if your provider feels it’s necessary. Some indications of a test being needed would be an abnormal heart rhythm in your baby during an ultrasound.
Heart rhythm issues
As part of your regular visits, your heart is always monitored. If your provider discovers an irregular heartbeat that includes a pounding heart, flutter, race, or if your heart skips a beat, this should be evaluated. Minor abnormalities are common during pregnancy and are usually caused by increased blood in the body and hormonal shifts. If you do discover you have an arrhythmia, your doctor will decide on the best course of action.
Heart valve issues
Heart valve diseases like leaky heart valves can be very dangerous during pregnancy. This can cause serious bleeding, high blood pressure, organ damage, and other types of complications during childbirth.
If you have scarring or malformation of your heart valves this can also increase your risk of complications during pregnancy. When the valves aren’t functioning properly the ability to handle increased blood will be problematic.
Another thing to be aware of when it comes to the heart valves is if it’s abnormal or artificial, you carry an increased risk of infection that can be life-threatening. This occurs in the lining of the heart and heart valves known as endocarditis.
When it comes to heart conditions some are more serious than others and may require surgery before trying to conceive.
In order to get ahead of any issues, you will need to be fully informed and be your own health advocate so that you can work side by side with your provider. Before conceiving aim for regular exercise to strengthen your heart, getting enough rest, and eat foods that can enrich and prepare your body for conception.