Reproductive health for young women with congenital heart defects

Topic #2 of 6: Planning a Healthy Pregnancy (sharable version attached)

Women living with a congenital heart defect (CHD) can have healthy pregnancies. Plan ahead and follow these steps.

  • See health care professionals who treat pregnant women with CHDs. You should have a congenital cardiologist, a high-risk obstetrician, an anesthesiologist and a social worker on your medical team.
  • Go to your appointments. Your cardiology health care professionals will tell you how often appointments with them are needed. Most women with a CHD see their congenital cardiologist at least once each trimester.
  • Take vitamins with folic acid, eat healthy foods, exercise, get enough rest, don’t smoke, and don’t drink alcohol. Also, only take drugs prescribed by your doctors.

During pregnancy, the congenital cardiologist may want to perform special tests.

  • Most women with a CHD have ultrasounds of their heart, called “echocardiograms.” These are usually done early in the pregnancy and in the third trimester.
  • An ultrasound – fetal echocardiogram – of the baby’s heart should also be performed around 18-20 weeks of pregnancy to check for a CHD in the baby.

During the pregnancy, plans for labor and delivery will be made.

  • The anesthesiologist will talk with you about pain control options because some of these medicines can affect the heart rate and blood pressure.
  • A vaginal delivery is recommended for most women with a CHD but this is an individual decision and varies depending on the patient and the type of CHD. The obstetrician and congenital cardiologist will let you know what type of delivery will be recommended for you.

Additional information about reproductive health for (young) women living with a CHD is available from the Congenital Heart Public Health Consortium through the Website.

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