Don’t ignore your heart health during pregnancy! Here’s why

As World Heart Day approaches, an expert reminds women of the need to maintain heart health during pregnancy.
Importance of healthy heart during pregnancy
Keep your heart healthy for a healthy and safe pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Rajasekhar Varada Updated: 23 Oct 2023, 12:04 pm IST
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The human body adapts remarkably to the physiological demands of a pregnancy. In most instances, it should be a breeze and largely uneventful. However, in women with health risks and those who have had previous health or heart issues, it becomes a different ballgame. Sound heart health during pregnancy is important.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of maternal death during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It constitutes 26.5 percent of pregnancy-related deaths, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists.

It is needless to say, but as a woman prepares for her pregnancy, she has to commit herself to take care of her health. Pregnancy puts unusual demands on the body of a woman and coping with it requires understanding planning and practicing healthy living.

Healthy habits in pregnancy
Keep your diet and exercise in check for a healthy pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

As the age of women who are getting pregnant is increasing in urban populations, it brings to fore new challenges. A higher prevalence of obesity diabetes hypertension and habits such as smoking and alcohol put a womb at risk during pregnancy.

So, women should prioritize their health, especially heart health prior to conception.

Heart health risks in pregnancy

1. Being overweight

Overweight women have a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes, which puts them as well the baby to unnecessary risks. Diabetic women are at risk of cardiovascular complications during and after pregnancy. So it’s important to control one’s diabetes optimally prior to conception. Overweight women should try and achieve ideal body weight.

Both can be accomplished through a combination of a good and healthy diet comprising of fresh vegetables fruits and greens. A 30-minute brisk walk daily goes a long way toward realizing that goal.

Obesity and pregnancy
Being overweight can have detrimental effects on your heart and pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shuttterstock

2. Blood pressure

High blood pressure and high blood cholesterol also increase a woman’s risk of heart complications during pregnancy.

A unique condition called preeclampsia can put both mother and baby at risk for complications. Among modifiable risk factors for preeclampsia are obesity and overweight. To reduce the incidence of this problem, it’s important for women to achieve ideal body weight prior to conception. At-risk women are sometimes prescribed baby aspirin.

3. Arthritis

Women who have certain immune-mediated diseases of connective tissue like lupus erythematosis and rheumatoid arthritis also have a higher risk of cardiac complications. Also, some of the medicines used for these diseases, interfere with conception as well as feral development.

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4. Pre-existing heart health problems

A woman who has pre-existing heart condition would already be on medication which could interfere with the development of fetus. So, a proper consultation with obstetrician and cardiologist is required to substitute those medications with safer alternatives prior to conception. Many medications need to be continued in the same or modified doses.

Also read: The number of pregnancies you’ve had can determine your risk of heart disease

Women with heart problems
Make sure your heart health problems are in check. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The last word

In view of the rising age of conceiving women in urban populations, many scientific societies have issued guidance for comprehensive cardiac evaluation prior to conception. This is especially important in older women trying conception through assisted means such as in-vitro fertility (IVF).

Therefore, pregnancy in women with prior cardiac issues needs to be co-managed by cardiologist and obstetrician. The cornerstones of preparing your heart for a safe pregnancy are risk factor management, optimal treatment of pre-existing disease and awareness of safety issues of drugs.

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About the Author

Dr Rajasekhar Varada Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad ...Read More

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