Heart Disease and Pregnancy
February 22, 2018
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States? The restriction of blood flow to your major organs and limbs as a result of cholesterol accumulation and the hardening of your arteries cause heart disease.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), women between the ages of 55-64 years are at the highest risk of developing high cholesterol heart disease. However, women of child-bearing age are also at risk of developing premature heart disease if it runs in their families, are obese, and/or if they exercise very little and consume foods with high amounts of cholesterol.
Why is it important to monitor my heart health during pregnancy?
It is very important to regularly monitor your heart health with your doctor before, during, and after pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, heart or cardiovascular disease (CVD) occurs in three main forms that affect blood flow within your arteries: coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and cerebrovascular disease.
Coronary artery disease prevents proper blood supply to your heart. Peripheral artery disease interferes with proper supply to your body limbs such as your legs and arms. Cerebrovascular disease prevents proper blood supply from your arteries to your brain.
If blood flow through any of your arteries is compromised, then blood flow to your growing fetus may also be compromised. This is a solid reason why it is important to monitor your heart health with your doctor during your pregnancy.
How can heart disease affect the health of my pregnancy?
Heart disease can often cause an unsafe increase in blood pressure due to restricted blood flow through the arteries, which could severely compromise blood and nutrient supply to your developing fetus and/or lead to pregnancy loss in the form of a miscarriage or stillbirth. Pregnant women with heart disease also have a higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia, which is extremely high blood pressure during pregnancy, which may also lead to pre-term labor or pregnancy loss. Gestational diabetes also increases the risk of long-term cardiovascular disease in women.
If you have heart disease and are or wish to become pregnant, it is important to speak with your doctor as soon as possible to identify the best possible care options to protect and ensure the health of both you and your pregnancy. Schedule an appointment today with our experienced OBGYNs at one of our Eugene/Springfield offices.