What can I expect during prenatal visits?
During pregnancy, you'll see your health care provider often. Your weight and blood pressure will likely be checked at every visit, and you might need frequent blood and urine tests.
Your health care provider might use various tests to evaluate your heart function, including:
- Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to produce images of your heart.
- Electrocardiogram. This test records your heart's electrical activity.
How can I make sure my baby is OK?
Your health care provider will closely monitor your baby's development throughout the pregnancy. Routine ultrasound exams can be used to track your baby's growth, and specialized ultrasounds can be used to detect any fetal heart abnormalities. Your baby might need monitoring or treatment after delivery as well.
What can I do to prevent complications?
Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. For example:
- Keep your prenatal appointments. Visit your health care provider regularly throughout your pregnancy.
- Take your medication as prescribed. Your health care provider will prescribe the safest medication at the most appropriate dose.
- Get plenty of rest. Take a daily nap, if you can, and avoid strenuous physical activities. Bed rest might be recommended in some cases.
- Monitor your weight. Gaining the right amount of weight supports your baby's growth and development, but gaining too much weight places additional stress on your heart.
- Manage anxiety. Ask questions about your progress. Find out what to expect during labor and delivery. Knowing what's happening can help you feel more at ease.
- Know what's off-limits. Avoid smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs.
What signs or symptoms should I report to my health care provider?
Contact your health care provider if you have any signs or symptoms that concern you, particularly:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath with exertion
- Heart palpitations, rapid heart rate or irregular pulse
- Chest pain
- A bloody cough or coughing at night
What about labor and delivery?
Your health care provider might recommend delivering your baby at a medical center that specializes in high-risk pregnancies. If there are concerns about your heart or circulation or you need to have certain specialists present during labor, your labor might be induced.
Specialized equipment might be used to monitor you during labor. If your heart condition places you at high risk, a catheter might be inserted into a vein or artery to provide detailed information about your heart function and blood pressure.
Your contractions and your baby's heart rate will continuously be monitored. Instead of lying flat on your back, you might be asked to lie on your side and draw one of your knees toward your chest.
To reduce stress on your respiratory system, epidural anesthesia might be prescribed for pain relief. If you deliver vaginally, your health care provider might limit the amount of time you push.
Sometimes it's best to deliver the baby with the help of forceps or a vacuum extractor. If you're at risk of endocarditis, you might receive antibiotic treatment just before and after delivery.
It's unusual to need a C-section because of a heart condition. If you develop an obstetrical problem that leads to a C-section, special precautions will be taken to monitor your heart function during the delivery.
Will I be able to breast-feed my baby?
Breast-feeding is encouraged for most women who have heart conditions, even those who take medication. Discuss any treatment adjustments you'll need to make with your health care provider ahead of time. Sometimes an alternative medication is recommended.
If you have a congenital heart problem that greatly increases your risk of endocarditis, your doctor will probably discuss the risk of mastitis while breast-feeding. These fairly common infections could pose a special risk in these situations. Pumping and feeding breast milk might be recommended in some circumstances.
Jul. 11, 2014
See more In-depth
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