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Heart conditions and pregnancy

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

It’s not surprising to hear that being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications. But if you have a heart condition like heart disease or a health problem like high blood pressure (which can lead to heart problems), you might worry about how it could affect your pregnancy. Here are a few things to know:

  • High blood pressure can cause preeclampsia and premature birth during pregnancy. But managing your blood pressure can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
  • During pregnancy, your heart has much more work to do than before you got pregnant. It has to beat faster and pump more blood. If you have heart disease, then this extra stress on your heart may be a concern.
  • Most women with heart disease have safe pregnancies. But symptoms of heart disease can increase during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters.
  • Some medicines carry a risk for birth defects. These include ACE inhibitors and blood thinners. These are a type of medicine that may be used to treat heart and blood pressure conditions. If you take these medicines, ask your health care provider about their safety and about other medicines that may be safer for you and your baby. But don’t stop taking any medicine without your provider’s OK.

Planning your treatment before pregnancy

Planning your pregnancy can help you make informed decisions about what’s best for you and your baby. Heart problems are one of the leading causes of pregnancy related-death. Getting early treatment for conditions that can cause complications during and after pregnancy may help save your life.

If you have a heart condition, talk to your health care team (for example, your cardiologist and obstetrician) before you get pregnant. They can help you understand what risks (if any) you may have during pregnancy. You also can talk to them about any concerns you have, like changing to a safer medicine. You may want to meet with a genetic counselor to review the risks of passing congenital heart problems to your baby. This risk varies depending on the cause of the heart disease.

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your provider about a treatment plan to help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. By managing your health before pregnancy, you and your provider can make sure you’re ready for pregnancy.

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about having a healthy pregnancy and reducing your risk for complications.