How does pregnancy affect your heart?

During pregnancy, your heart is working for both you and your growing baby. Specifically, your heart pumps 30-50% more blood during pregnancy. The physical strain of labor and delivery adds to the stress placed on your heart.

You may have a pre-existing heart disease and not even know it, or you can develop a new heart condition during your pregnancy. Regardless, most people with a heart problem can safely become pregnant and deliver a healthy baby.

However, heart disease remains a leading cause of pregnancy complications. Understanding the risks can help you prepare to grow your family, and the experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center can help you every step of the way.

Our multidisciplinary team brings together congenital heart disease specialists, cardiothoracic surgeons, high-risk obstetricians and anesthesiologists for comprehensive care before, during and after your pregnancy.

What pre-existing heart conditions most impact pregnancy?

Certain heart diseases or conditions pose a greater risk than others. For example, most heart rhythm disorders aren’t usually a major cause of a concern and can be treated with medication while pregnant. However, other pre-existing heart conditions have a greater likelihood of leading to complications, such as:

Congenital heart disease or defect

Congenital heart disease is the most common type of heart disease during pregnancy. Since you’re born with this heart condition, your baby is also at a greater risk of developing a heart defect. You may also be at risk for pregnancy complications, including a higher risk of premature birth.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has one of the largest Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) programs in the nation dedicated to helping women with heart conditions who are, or wish to become, pregnant.


Cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of serious complications and death during pregnancy. Your individual risk is dependent on your specific type of cardiomyopathy and its severity.

Heart valve disorders

Some types of heart valve disorders aren’t likely to impact your pregnancy risks, while other types raise the risk of complications. For example, those who have aortic valve regurgitation may face the highest risk of complications during pregnancy.

Aortic disease

Aortic disease (aortopathy) is a condition that affects the body’s largest blood vessel, the aorta, which carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Your higher risk of complications is due to increased blood pressure, especially during labor and delivery, that could put too much strain on the aorta.

Eisengmenger syndrome and cyanosis

Eisengmenger syndrome and cyanosis are two heart conditions that can increase your risk of pregnancy complications or could pose such a high risk that pregnancy isn’t recommended.

What heart conditions can develop during pregnancy?

Even if you have no history of cardiovascular disease or other heart conditions, it’s possible the strain of pregnancy on your body can lead you to develop a heart disease or disorder. The most common include:

  • High blood pressure can affect about 10% of people who are pregnant. This can include gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, which is diagnosed after week 20 of your pregnancy.
  • Arrhythmias increase your risk of having an abnormal or irregular heartbeat.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs after week 20 of pregnancy and results in high blood sugar.
  • Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is a life-threatening condition that occurs when there is a tear in arteries supplying blood to your heart. SCAD usually occurs late in pregnancy or near delivery.
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a form of heart failure that occurs late in pregnancy or soon after giving birth. Peripartum cardiomyopathy describes a condition that prevents your heart from pumping enough blood to the rest of your body.

Make the choice to come to Ohio State before, during and after your pregnancy

We’re here to help mothers with any heart disease — including congenital heart disease, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation — and safely deliver healthy babies through care tailored to your condition, risk level and specific delivery needs. In addition, we have the resources and expertise needed to keep you and your baby together in the time immediately after delivery, even if you require close monitoring or additional care.

Our approach for your pregnancy

With a multidisciplinary approach, our specialists collaborate to develop the best pregnancy and delivery plan for each patient.

Our goal is to ensure you receive the care you need, including:

  • Ongoing, routine checkups to prevent complications: Many patients grow into adulthood with congenital heart disease and consequences can occur due to the heart adapting over time. Those complications may include irregular heart rhythms, leaky valves, stroke, obstruction and even heart failure.
  • A specialized plan for your care: This includes family planning, exercise goals, monitoring symptoms, infection protection and genetic counseling.
  • A transition plan to help children and teens move smoothly into the adult congenital program: We can follow you and your heart care through all of life’s milestones.
  • An expertise unmatched elsewhere: Our specialists understand how to treat all types of congenital heart defects.

Call our team to schedule your appointment. If you feel that you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency or need immediate medical attention, please call 911.

Personalized Heart Care Key to Reducing Pregnancy-Related Deaths

The rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. has more than doubled over the past two decades, and the main cause is heart disease.

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