Understanding pregnancy risks for women with congenital heart disease

A large number of women born with congenital heart disease (CHD) survive into adulthood because of advancements in surgical and medical treatments. Like many young adults, they have dreams of starting a family of their own. In general, pregnancy in women with a history of CHD is safe, but for some pregnancy may have significant risks to the mom and unborn baby.

One of the biggest concerns is the increased stress on the heart. Throughout pregnancy, there are a lot of changes happening to the body putting additional stress on the heart. Increased blood volume is one factor, since a pregnant woman produces 30 to 50 percent more blood. Increased heart rate is another. With the increased amount of blood, the heart must work harder and faster to keep up. Typically, a woman’s heart rate will increase 10 beats per minute during pregnancy.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Herma Heart Center works with women who have CHD to develop a customized plan prior to pregnancy. During pregnancy, the ACHD Program involves specialists like perinatologists, who specialize in high-risk pregnancies, and geneticists. The ACHD Program follows more than 30 pregnancies per year making our program the largest and most experienced in the state.

If you have CHD and are considering getting pregnant, I encourage you to make an appointment to create your personal plan for a safe and healthy pregnancy by calling (414) 266-1608.

Michael Earing, MD~ Michael Earing, MD, program director of ACHD Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and associate professor of Adult Cardiovascular Medicine and Pediatric Cardiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin

The ACHD program at Children’s Hospital is the largest program of its kind in the state. Three of the less than 40 physicians nationwide trained to care for this population are physicians in the ACHD Program. Our surgeons are the only board-certified congenital heart disease surgeons in the state.

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