Managing heart disease during pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman with heart disease faces a special challenge: Because the heart must work harder—pumping 2 to 3 times more blood to nourish a growing child—the extra strain can cause even a mild heart condition to become severe or life-threatening for both mother and child.
To ensure a safe journey, Virtua has put together a special high-risk cardiac team to closely monitor a woman throughout pregnancy and for first 6 weeks after birth. They include a maternal-fetal medicine physician—a specialist in high-risk pregnancy care—a cardiologist and an anesthesiologist.
As needed, the patient meets with all 3 specialists at one visit. Any problems that may arise are handled quickly and efficiently. Ongoing communication the patient's obstetrician is also an important part of this care.
More frequent testing throughout pregnancy provides physicians with real-time data on the baby's health and to ensure that the woman’s heart is working properly. The team uses technology that includes echocardiograms, which use sound waves to create images of the heart, electrocardiograms that measure the heart’s electrical activity and ultrasounds to monitor the baby's development.
High-risk cardiac issues
The nature and severity of a heart condition determines the risk. Some conditions require treatment or surgery before conception. In rare instances, a heart condition may require that a woman avoid pregnancy completely. Conditions that require special care are:
- Congenital heart defects (those present at birth)
- Prior diagnosis of any heart or blood vessel diseases including arrhythmia, heart murmur, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, Marfan syndrome or rheumatic fever
- Prior cardiac event such as a heart attack
- Severe narrowing of the mitral or aortic valve
Virtua's expert team, diagnostic tools and well-planned delivery strategies help manage issues that, just a few years ago, may have overwhelmed a pregnant heart.
Are you pregnant, or considering pregnancy, and have a heart condition?
Ask your obstetrician, cardiologist or family doctor for a referral to Virtua's high-risk pregnancy and heart care team.
The team sees patients at these locations: