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Wear The Gown: Pregnancy and heart disease

There are things women with heart problems need to look out for before becoming pregnant

SAN ANTONIO — Having a baby is very stressful on the mother's body. That is especially the case if the mother has any type of heart problem before, during or even after pregnancy. 

If a woman has a pre-existing heart condition the key is finding out about it before she even gets pregnant in order to have the best outcome. 

"One of the problems I see is being overweight which is a common factor here in the south and not knowing what risk factors you should look at even at a young age," said Dr. Ildiko Agoston who is a cardiologist with University Health, and a Professor of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. 

She also says hypertension is a huge risk factor. 

"A lot of them present with high blood pressure during pregnancy, and either did not have high blood pressure before they became pregnant or they didn't know they had high blood pressure and they had it before they conceived," Dr. Agoston said.

About 700 women die every year in the U.S. from pregnancy related complications. 3 in 5 of those deaths could have been avoided. About 1 in 3 pregnancy-related deaths occur as far out as 1 month to 1 year after delivery.

"We also have very complex guidelines of what is a normal blood pressure for a pregnant woman. We actually let pregnant women go a little higher on their blood pressure so the baby gets enough blood flow through the placenta,"  Dr. Agoston added.

If you do have a heart problem Dr. Agoston says having the right team there during delivery is of the utmost importance. 

"If you are foreseeing that there may be complications during the time of delivery you have to have onboard your MFM, your cardiologist, your anesthesiologist. That is going to help with the delivery process," Dr. Agoston said.

Mothers should also look for warning signs in previous pregnancies. Because the first delivery may go smoothly, but by the second or third that may not be the case. 

For more information about family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of Wear The Gown stories, just go to WearTheGown.com.

For more information about pregnancy-related health problems from the CDC click here.

For statistics from the American Heart Association and pregnancy-related health problems click here.