Heart disease can be congenital, meaning it is present from birth or can appear later in life. Heart disease during pregnancy includes a variety of heart-related issues, including congenital heart abnormalities, high blood pressure, heart failure, coronary artery disease, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Additionally, a pregnant person’s heart and circulation system go through specific typical alterations. To prevent problems, their medical team must closely monitor people with heart disease throughout pregnancy.
Understanding Cardiac Disease during Pregnancy
Cardiac (heart) disease in pregnancy is the medical term for cardiac issues that develop during pregnancy. There are two primary cardiac conditions that might affect you when pregnant:
- Heart issues you had before getting pregnant are referred to as preexisting conditions, and these disorders may not have previously generated any symptoms or serious concerns. However, they may have a different effect on you and cause issues while you are pregnant.
- Heart issues that appear during pregnancy are ones you did not have before becoming pregnant. Some are risk-free, while others might be harmful.
The majority of women with cardiac conditions are able to get pregnant safely and deliver healthy children. However, significant consequences might occasionally result from cardiovascular disease during pregnancy.
It’s critical to understand how heart disease may impact you if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. However, it’s important first to take a step back and understand how pregnancy impacts your heart and blood arteries.
What Happens to Heart & Blood Vessels during Pregnancy?
The doctor on call recommends that during pregnancy, your body goes through various changes. Your body is put under more strain as a result of these changes, and your heart has to pump harder. The alterations listed below are typical during pregnancy, and they aid in ensuring that your developing fetus gets enough oxygen and nutrition.
- Blood volume increase: During the first few weeks of pregnancy, your blood volume increases and continues to do so. The average person’s total blood volume increases by 40% to 45% while pregnant.
- Heart rate rise: It’s typical for pregnant women to have an increase in heart rate of 10 to 20 beats per minute. It steadily increases during your pregnancy and reaches its peak in the third trimester.
- Cardiac Activity Surges: The volume of blood that your heart is beating each minute is known as cardiac output. Your pulse rate may rise 30% to 50% by 28 to 34 weeks. The increased blood volume and quicker heartbeat are to blame for this. Your vital capacity may rise by as much as 60% if you are expecting twins.
The Associated Risks of Heart Disease in Pregnancy
Because pregnancy makes the heart work harder, there is a chance that a heart ailment can worsen or possibly cause an underlying heart issue to manifest symptoms for the first time. There may also be side effects, including ‘pulmonary edema,’ an irregular heartbeat, or even a stroke. Depending on the kind and severity of the heart condition, there may be risks during pregnancy.
- Medication can be used to address minor cardiac issues such as heart arrhythmia if necessary.
- An artificial heart valve or other serious cardiac problem increases the chance of acquiring a potentially fatal infection of the heart’s lining, which is also known as endocarditis.
- Premature delivery and the development of a similar heart problem in the unborn child are risks exacerbated by congenital heart disorders.
- As blood volume rises during pregnancy, congestive heart failure may get worse.
Heart Complications Develop during Pregnancy
Numerous heart or blood vascular issues might arise during pregnancy. This is true even if you have never had a history of cardiovascular disease. Here are some of the heart complications that a woman may develop during pregnancy and for which getting a doctor on call appointment for checking at home or clinic is crucial;
- High blood pressure. It is also known as gestational hypertension.
- Gestational diabetes is another complication that may develop in time with high blood super intake.
- Arrhythmias is an abnormal heartbeat that a woman develops during pregnancy.
- Another is spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). It is also a life-threatening condition in which the condition of the arteries supplying blood to your heart becomes irregular.
- Myocardial ischemia is another complication that arises when a person’s heart does not receive enough blood.
- Peripartum cardiomyopathy is also another complication in which the complications of heart failure develop during or soon after the pregnancy.
- Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are when the risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms increases.
Some Serious Heart Health Conditions during Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be precarious due to certain cardiac problems and associated disorders. If any of the following apply to you:
- Aortic valve stenosis
- Coarctation in the aorta
- Eisenmenger syndrome
- Fontan physiology
- Marfan syndrome
- Mitral valve stenosis
- Peripartum cardiomyopathy
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Severe aortic dilation
- Ventricular dysfunction
Talk with your provider if you have any of these conditions. Your provider will evaluate the severity of your condition and discuss your risks with you.
The Final Takeaway
Each woman’s experience with heart disease during pregnancy is different, but if you have it, know that you’re not the only one. Your cardiologist, physician, and OB-GYN will watch you before, during, and after pregnancy. Moreover, in this period, social support can also change the game for you and become a massive source of support for your heart’s health.