The heart works harder to support a pregnancy -- it’s now “pumping for two.” That can be difficult in people with known heart disease. It can also reveal heart disease that was not previously known. These heart conditions increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease refers to heart defects that are present at birth and repaired at an early age but can cause complications in adults. They include repaired holes in the heart (ventricular or atrial septal defect), valve disease, and other conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart. In the past, people with these conditions did not live to adulthood. If they did, they were told to avoid becoming pregnant because of the risks to mom and baby. Fortunately, with modern care, close monitoring, and a team-based approach, it's possible for many adults with congenital heart disease to have a successful, safe pregnancy.
Preexisting Heart Conditions
Preexisting conditions such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), cardiomyopathy, pulmonary or chronic hypertension, a past heart attack, heart failure, or diseases of the arteries and aorta can cause complications during pregnancy.
Heart Disease Acquired During Pregnancy
Because of the increase in blood volume during pregnancy, the heart must work harder. This can cause heart disease to develop or reveal heart disease previously not known. Women with obesity and diabetes are also at increased risk for developing heart conditions during pregnancy. Common heart conditions that develop in pregnancy include high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms.
Symptoms of a Heart Condition
Talk to your doctor if you experience the following symptoms during pregnancy. These symptoms are common in pregnancy and do not mean you have a heart condition. Our team can help determine if you do. If needed, they work with your obstetrician during your pregnancy to manage your care.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Rapid irregular heartbeat
- Persistent cough or wheezing
- Swelling in ankles and feet