Do you know a mom-to-be who has a heart disease, and is worried about how that will affect her child? Read on to learn about heart disease in pregnancy.
What happens in an expecting mother with heart disease?
The heart is a blood-pumping machine, and blood carries oxygen. In pregnancy, the demand on the heart increases. If the pump is not working well, the baby may not get the oxygen it requires and may not grow well, or may be born prematurely.
The symptoms of pregnancy complications due to heart disease can be similar to general pregnancy side effects – so what are the specific symptoms to look for?
- Feeling very short of breath, especially when lying flat
- Repeated episodes of feeling dizzy
- Chest pain
- Cough with wheezing
- Increased tiredness and inability to do routine work – difficulty walking at usual pace or climbing a flight of stairs
- Sense of increased heart rate, or sensation of pounding heartbeat
- Gradually increasing swelling in hands and feet, which may not reduce with rest
What can be done to avoid heart disease-related complications in pregnancy?
- Immediately visit your physician upon confirmation of pregnancy. Visit every 2-4 weeks until 20 weeks, every 2 weeks until 24 weeks, and weekly thereafter.
- If experiencing any of the above symptoms, see your physician as soon as possible and get a routine examination. If possible, complete tests like an electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiogram (echo) at the physician visit.
- Immediately visit your physician if you experience a sudden change in weight, chest pain, or any shortness of breath.
- Ask your doctor about getting an influenza vaccination.
- Follow a healthy diet: avoid smoking and excessive weight gain.
- Avoid excessive physical activity. Talk to your doctor about the activities you should and should not do.
While it is not entirely possible to prevent heart defects in babies, it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy by seeking care at the right time and following the lifestyle guidelines described above.
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