Pregnancy and Your Heart Condition

February 22, 2022

Memorial Staff

nurse measuring pressure of pregnant woman

When you are pregnant, your body makes extra blood to fuel you and your baby, your heart pumps harder, and it may also go through sudden changes in blood pressure and blood flow during labor and delivery. If you have a heart condition, this extra stress could affect your health.

Can I safely get pregnant if I have a heart condition?

In most cases you can get pregnant, but there are some cardiac patients that we recommend don’t get pregnant.

When you have a heart condition, you are considered to have a high-risk pregnancy. However, thanks to improvements in medicine and technology, most women with a heart condition can safely carry the pregnancy.

What heart conditions can affect pregnancy?

You may have been born with a heart condition (congenital) or developed a heart condition as you grew up. For some moms, a heart condition is diagnosed during pregnancy. The most common conditions that can affect pregnancy include:

  • A hole in your heart or heart murmur
  • A narrow or poorly functioning heart valve
  • Heart muscle problems that keep your heart from pumping well
  • Problems with your arteries or veins around the heart
  • An irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia

Start with a Care Plan

“If you have a heart condition, you should always talk to your cardiologist and gynecologist before trying to get pregnant,” says Erin Myers, MD, a high-risk OB/GYN at Memorial Regional Hospital.

Your care team can give you guidance on having the safest possible pregnancy. You might need some extra appointments, tests, or changes to your medications. Your exact care plan will depend on what type of condition you have and if your heart condition is well controlled. Your care plan may include:

  • Avoiding caffeine during pregnancy
  • Eating in a heart-healthy way, such as lowering your sodium intake
  • Echocardiograms for you and/or your baby to examine your heart(s)
  • Reduced physical activity to ease stress on your heart
  • Taking medicines to lower your blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Taking baby aspirin or other medicines to reduce your risk for blood clots
  • Weekly fetal stress tests to check your baby’s heart in the second and/or third trimesters

Don’t make any changes to your care routine without first talking to you doctor. If you don’t have a cardiologist or high-risk OB doctor, Memorial has an experienced team of specialists to help you along your pregnancy journey.

Can I deliver at any type of hospital if I’m a high-risk pregnancy?

It’s a good idea to deliver your baby at a hospital with experience caring for mothers with heart conditions because you may need to have certain specialists available for you or your baby at the time of delivery. If a complication should arise with your baby, a hospital with an on-site NICU care team is also important for your baby’s safety.

Our maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) and high-risk OB specialists have experience caring for expecting moms with heart conditions. You can rely on our expertise to protect you and your baby from your first ultrasound all the way through birth. Learn more about our high-risk pregnancy services.