February is a time not only to celebrate the romantic heart but the human heart as well. In celebration of National Heart Month, let’s raise awareness regarding cardiac risk, especially as it relates to pregnancy.
Historically, pregnancy and heart disease are part of my family’s medical and social history. My grandmother died at age 39, nine months after giving birth to my aunt from post-partum cardiomyopathy, a form of congestive heart failure that affects pregnant women. Neither my youngest aunt nor her grandchildren got an opportunity to know her because of this tragedy.
Are you at risk for heart problems merely by being pregnant? The short answer is no unless you have risk factors such as obesity, shortness of breath associated with physical activity, chest pain at rest or with exertion, high blood pressure uncontrolled, or high cholesterol.
Women over age 35 account for 9% of first-time mothers in the U.S., so here are a few facts all women need to know regarding pregnancy and the heart.
- If you have known or suspected heart disease, you should see a cardiologist before becoming pregnant.
- Your heart rate might increase during pregnancy because your body has increased circulating fluid
- Your heart will work harder during labor because of increased fluid and pain that will affect your nervous system
- Your EKG might appear abnormal because of the position of the baby on your diaphragm
- Having pre-eclampsia increases your risk of heart disease later in life, so after the delivery of your baby, please continue to see a healthcare professional on a regular basis.
Remember: “The greatest risk to a pregnant woman is an unrecognized risk.” Please share and like if you found this information helpful.
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