Managing Heart Conditions During Pregnancy

Every pregnancy has its risks, but there is more at stake if a pregnant woman has a pre-existing heart condition. Cardiovascular conditions generally cause a pregnancy to be classified as high-risk; but with proper management, most women with heart and circulatory conditions can safely carry a child to term with little to no complications.

Understanding the Risks

During pregnancy, the cardiovascular system works overtime to make sure that the baby gets sufficient oxygen and nourishment. This leads to an increase in heart rate, blood volume and cardiac output, and a decrease in blood pressure. These changes increase the amount of strain on the heart, which in extreme cases might trigger a stroke, cardiac arrest or heart failure. Additionally, those who have congenital heart diseases also run a higher risk of miscarriage and premature birth.

For this very reason, women who have congenital heart defects and diseases are strongly advised to undergo pre-pregnancy check-ups with a cardiologist and an obstetrician-gynaecologist. Sometimes the assistance of a maternal-fetal medicine specialist is required to better assess high-risk cases.

Though very rare, those who are at a much higher risk for severe heart failure, peripheral cyanosis, Eisenmenger syndrome and pulmonary hypertension may be advised to avoid pregnancy altogether.

How to Minimise the Chances of Heart & Pregnancy Complications

To ensure that the pregnancy is progressing normally, high-risk patients will have more prenatal and cardiac check-ups.

These check-ups typically involve echocardiograms and electrocardiograms to monitor the condition of the heart during pregnancy, and sometimes even during and after labor and delivery. Ultrasounds are also used to monitor the development of the baby and detect fetal heart abnormalities. Symptoms such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations and bloody coughs, will warrant immediate medical attention.

High-risk patients should also do the following to minimise complications:

  • Stick to your appointments with your cardiologist and obstetrician-gynaecologist throughout the pregnancy and even after delivery.
  • Ensure that your current medication and dosage have been adjusted to be safe for pregnancy.
  • Avoid strenuous activities and high-impact exercises.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take illegal drugs.
  • Monitor your condition regularly and seek prompt medical attention when something doesn’t feel right.

Women Fertility & Fetal Centre is a Singapore obstetrics, gynaecology and infertility centre that is well-equipped to manage high-risk pregnancies, from pre-conception to post-natal care. To schedule an appointment with Dr Ann Tan, call 6734-8188.

Dr Ann Tan
Dr Ann Tan, PBM
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Dr Ann Tan is the first Singaporean to hold the Diploma of Fetal Medicine from the Fetal Medicine Foundation. She presently serves on the Women’s Health Advisory Committee at the Health Promotion Board. Dr Ann Tan was a Public Service Commission Scholar, and has won several prestigious awards in her field of specialization.
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