Many of us naturally think of heart disease, or other heart problems, as a condition which affects only middle-aged women approaching menopause or older women. The truth is that young women of child bearing years can -- and do -- suffer with heart disease and other heart conditions.
For young women with preexisting heart conditions or heart disease, pregnancy brings not only the joy and wonder of bringing a new life into the world, but also unique health risks and challenges.
Pregnancy places both the heart and circulatory system under stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, both the amount of blood volume and amount of blood pumped by the heart increases somewhere been 30 and 50 percent during pregnancy. These increases in the heart’s workload, place an already diseased or damaged heart under stress.
A variety of heart conditions may impact a woman’s health during pregnancy. The most common heart conditions observed during pregnancy are congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are defects which are present at birth.
In addition to congenital heart defects, acquired heart conditions such as valvular disease, cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, and arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats may also lead to serious health complications during pregnancy.
The complications and health risks during pregnancy from preexisting heart conditions can vary widely depending on the particular heart condition. For example, women with arrhythmias or congestive heart failure may find that while mild, the heart conditions become much worse during pregnancy.
On the other hand, those with valve replacement or artificial hearts may find that their artificial valve or heart can’t tolerate the increased workload required during pregnancy. They are also at risk for developing endocarditis, an infection of the lining that surrounds the heart and valves, which may become life-threatening.
Some heart conditions, including congenital defects, may be life-threatening to both the mother and unborn child.
The concerns relating to preexisting heart conditions is not to be taken lightly.