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Pregnancy and heart health | Wear the Gown

Cardiovascular disease and maternal mortality go hand in hand.

SAN ANTONIO — Whenever any woman gets pregnant it puts a strain on the body, and especially the heart. 

Women right here in south Texas are among those with elevated underlying risk factors that make them more prone to having heart problems that can be life-threatening when it comes to being pregnant. 

"The number one risk that I would look at is whether they have a history of congenital heart disease, if they have any kind of heart deformities that they were born with," said Dr. Idilko Agoston who is a cardiologist with University Health and Professor of Medicine with UT Health San Antonio. She says diabetes is a problem too. 

Dr. Idilko added, "We also have, unfortunately, a big diabetic population here in the South, and that contributes to cardiovascular complications during pregnancy." 

The CDC says the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate for developed countries in the world, with Texas ranking 6th in the nation in the number of maternal deaths. And the National Institutes of Health says cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death in pregnant women and those who have just given birth. Dr. Agoston told us, "Once you become pregnant, you need to listen to your body."

Dr. Agoston says any woman planning to get pregnant needs to know their blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and family history. Any of those could mean a higher risk of mortality during or right after pregnancy, which means you would need to be followed closely. 

She added, "Sometimes you may need a specialized GYN doctor who is called a maternal fetal medicine doctor that may refer you to see a cardiologist during your pregnancy." 

Dr. Agoston is organizing a conference to educate women about heart health and pregnancy.  To sign up for the conference or for more information about it click here.

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