When you have heart disease, a pregnancy can be both a joy and a life-threatening condition. 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. We’ve helped hundreds of mothers with heart disease—including congenital heart disease, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation—safely deliver healthy babies through customized care tailored to the patient’s condition, risk level and specific delivery needs. In addition, we have the resources and expertise needed to keep mother and baby together in the time immediately after delivery, even if you require close monitoring or additional care.  

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 congenital heart defects and acquired heart conditions who are, or wish to become, pregnant.

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.

Cardiovascular changes during pregnancy

As your baby continues to grow, changes can occur in your heart and blood vessels, causing extra stress on the body and making your heart work harder. Some of these changes are completely normal because they help your baby get enough oxygen and nutrients to develop at a normal rate.

  • During the first trimester, the amount of blood in your body increases 30 – 50% and stays elevated throughout the entire pregnancy. Due to the increase in blood volume, you should also expect your cardiac output (amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute) to increase by 30 – 40%.
  • It’s also normal to experience an increase in heart rate or minor abnormalities in heart rhythm. Your heart rate can increase by 10 – 15 beats per minute during pregnancy.
  • A few factors, including hormone changes and more blood directed toward your uterus, can cause blood pressure to decrease by 10 mmHg. Usually, this drop will not cause any symptoms or require treatment. Your health care provider checks your blood pressure at each prenatal appointment and will alert you if there’s reason to worry.

You may experience shortness of breath, fatigue and light headedness related to these cardiovascular changes during pregnancy. These symptoms are normal, however, you should talk to your health care provider to address any questions or concerns. After delivering your baby, these changes in your heart and blood vessels will go back to pre-pregnancy levels after several weeks.

Certain heart conditions can increase your risk of pregnancy complications, or could pose such a high risk that pregnancy isn’t recommended (such as Eisenmenger's syndrome or cyanosis). It’s also possible that you could have a heart or blood vessel condition that isn’t diagnosed until pregnancy.

The baby’s survival during pregnancy is greatly affected by your own health and well-being so it’s vital that you take precautions to prevent cardiovascular complications. That could mean simple lifestyle changes such as getting plenty of sleep, managing anxiety, and staying away from unhealthy sources of nourishment and dangerous activities. Even more important, make sure you attend every prenatal appointment and take medication only as prescribed. 

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:

  • 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, including 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 that will follow them throughout their adult life.
  • Our specialists understand how to treat all types of congenital heart defects.

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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