Consult with the maternal-fetal medicine team.
Heart disease in pregnancy or after delivery can be treated and successfully managed. As you take so much care to give your baby a wonderful new life, be sure to take care of yourself. Most patients have healthy pregnancies and babies. Understanding that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death during pregnancy and after pregnancy might encourage more people to prioritize their health.
Pumping blood through your body and your unborn baby’s puts extra stress on your heart and blood vessels. Any cardiovascular condition you had before can worsen during pregnancy. New conditions also can appear.
Even if you didn’t have any heart issues before your pregnancy, heart disease can emerge during pregnancy, while you’re in labor and for up to a year after delivery. High blood pressure, diabetes and preeclampsia are some of the most common conditions affecting your heart during pregnancy.
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Serious health conditions are becoming more common during pregnancy, especially among women of color. Black women can have up to four times higher risk for conditions related to high blood pressure in pregnancy.
Regular blood pressure checks during pregnancy are a key part of catching any issues before they worsen and cause long-term damage.
If your blood pressure rises, your obstetrician may refer you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and cardiologist who specializes in women’s heart health. Specialists with Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine, a part of Norton Women’s Care, will work with your obstetrician and other members of your health care team to create a coordinated plan for your pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum period. The Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Program was created to focus on key points in a woman’s life — such as pregnancy — when heart disease can occur.
Gestational diabetes and the associated high glucose (blood sugar) levels double the chances of calcium buildup in your arteries. Restoring healthy blood sugar levels after pregnancy won’t reverse the calcification, which is a strong predictor of heart disease such as atherosclerosis —cholesterol buildup in blood vessel walls.
High glucose damages blood vessels throughout your body. Over time, organ and circulatory issues can lead to organ failure, heart attack or stroke.
Pregnancy-related heart attacks are rare. But they can be particularly dangerous, because a pregnancy-related heart attack can be different from a typical heart attack and strike people who may assume they aren’t at risk for a heart attack.
A common cause of heart attack during or shortly after pregnancy is spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection heart attacks aren’t caused by plaque buildup from high cholesterol. Rather, they begin with a tear in the layers of an artery’s wall. Blood flows under the tear, often making it larger, and pools there. As the area fills with blood, it expands and can form a clot that blocks blood flow.
The cause of spontaneous coronary artery dissection isn’t clear, but a leading suspect is hormonal changes after delivery that affect the vascular walls. These heart attacks appear to happen more often in the first month after delivery.
If you have chest pain or think you’re having a heart attack, call 911. Don’t attempt to drive yourself to an emergency room.
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