Welcoming your newborn into the world can be an exciting and emotional experience. After the stress that pregnancy puts on your body, it is the moment that you have been waiting months for. But if you have a pre-existing heart condition or are at risk of developing a heart condition, the changes and impact of pregnancy might have a bigger effect on your heart’s function.
“Pregnancy is like having a stress test,” says Brittany Fuller, M.D., a cardiologist with Henry Ford Health. “The body goes through many structural changes and there is a tremendous shift in blood volume. Overall, your heart is working harder than normal.”
Managing A Heart Condition While Pregnant
During your pregnancy, it is normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate. It will usually drop during your first trimester and spike at the time of delivery. Because of this added stress on the heart, having a heart condition while you are pregnant can be cause for some extra precautions. It can also create new complications or worsen your condition.
“For example, many heart medications might be good for your heart function, but not safe for baby,” says Dr. Fuller. “We recommend pre-pregnancy planning sessions to help women with heart conditions not only prepare for the impact pregnancy will have on the body, but also adjust their medications if needed.”
Without taking proper action at the beginning of your pregnancy or even before you conceive, you can put your baby at risk.
Take our heart risk assessment today.
What To Expect From Your Pre-Pregnancy Planning Sessions
Preparing for the arrival of baby starts before you even conceive. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor. If you are concerned for your heart health during pregnancy, talk to your OB/GYN, midwife or primary care doctor. They can help you assess your individual risks and cardiac health to see if pre-pregnancy planning is right for you.
Pre-pregnancy planning sessions aren’t just beneficial for women with heart conditions. These sessions are also recommended for high-risk pregnancies. Some of the main factors that can put your pregnancy at risk include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Advanced maternal age (over 35)
- History of smoking
- Congenital heart defects
- Diabetes or prediabetes
“Recognizing your risks and focusing on a healthy lifestyle is your best bet for having a successful pregnancy and life as a whole,” says Dr. Fuller. “When we identify a heart condition in someone who is pregnant, we work together to manage their condition in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a healthy mom and a healthy baby.”
Finally, when it comes time for delivery, your cardiologist and obstetrics team will work together to make sure everything goes smoothly. If there is concern for your heart health during delivery, the cardiology team can be on-hand to assist.
“Our teams get together and review individual high-risk cases before the time of delivery,” says Dr. Fuller. “If it is needed, the cardiology team will be there to assist mom, while the OB team is prepared to care for baby.”
If you have a heart condition and are thinking about becoming pregnant, rest assured knowing you can still have a healthy pregnancy. Make sure to communicate your concerns or any changes in your health with your doctor and be aware of the risks.
Dr. Brittany Fuller is an interventional cardiologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Second Avenue. She also works with the Women’s Heart Center to provide support to women with cardiovascular risks and heart conditions.