Having a baby is the ultimate showing that life is miraculous. However, that miracle could be put at risk when you are pregnant, particularly if you have some type of heart disease. Being pregnant places quite a burden on a woman's body, particularly the heart. Pregnancy makes the heart work harder to not only carry the extra weight of a baby but also to supply that miracle of life with the blood, oxygen and other nutrients it needs to thrive. A woman with a healthy heart can usually handle the extra strain and work the body must cope with.
If you have heart disease, the extra burden of weight and supplying the baby with extra nutrients and oxygen can be quite troublesome, causing a variety of different health issues during pregnancy. As there are a number of different types of heart disease, each one poses different problems when you are carrying child.
Primary risks for pregnant heart disease sufferers
There is a lot of risk for pregnant women with heart disease as the situation could create conditions where the blood flowing to the lungs could be reduced. Pulmonary stenosis could occur if the pulmonary valve (regulating the blood flow from the heart to the lungs) becomes hindered from blood flow issues. Mitral stenosis could also occur if the mitral valve (the one that operates the blood flow from the lungs to the heart) is affected.
In either case of stenosis, the blood flow into your lungs doesn't match the increased flow needed to keep up with your growing baby and the need for oxygenated blood flow to the rest of the body. When this occurs, you are opening up yourself to other diseases related to heart disease such as Cor pulmonale, pulmonary hypertension, Eisenmenger syndrome or even any number of occlusive pulmonary vein conditions. The risk of death to a pregnant mom could be as high as 50% depending on the condition.
Health issues with the unborn child
With some incidences of heart disease, you still have the chance at having a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby. If you have heart disease as a result of an old case of rheumatic fever, you would likely be fine, perhaps giving birth to a baby that weighs a few ounces to a pound underweight. Even some women with congenital heart disease experience normal births and healthy babies.
However, if you have a particular heart disease in which are constantly struggling to maintain a healthy oxygen level in your blood, chances are your unborn child will struggle and be born with retardation because they were starved for oxygen. In other cases, spontaneous abortion, miscarriage or premature birth is the result.
There is a small chance (higher than average than healthy moms) of the baby being born with congenital heart disease or some other heart ailment. The coincidence is that many of the babies who do end up with some type of congenital defect will have the same one their birth mother has.
The bottom line is that while pregnancy is a risk for heart disease patients, it is not impossible. The type of heart disease you have will determine the health problems you and possibly your unborn child will have during the pregnancy.