PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A woman’s pregnancy is typically filled with joy and anticipation. But a recent report raises serious concerns about the increasing toll pregnancy is taking on her heart health.
The study in the journal Mayo Clinical Proceedings reveals a pregnant woman’s risk of having a heart attack rose by 25 percent from 2002 to 2014. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller looked into heart attack risk of women during pregnancy, labor and in the weeks following childbirth.
A woman’s body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. Some you see and some you don’t. “The amount of blood that a woman has in her body increases and the heart has to pump that extra blood to the fetus as well,” said Geisinger Electrophysiologist Faiz Subzposh, MD. Up to 50 percent of the expectant mother’s heart has to work harder to handle what’s called the cardiac output. Dr. Subzposh said, “So the increased blood volume can cause problems with extra weight and extra load on the heart.”
Increased blood volume isn’t the only issue during pregnancy. Hormones like estrogen are secreted which cause changes in a pregnant woman’s body. “High doses of estrogen can sometimes cause the blood vessels to dilate and open up. This can lead to lower blood pressure,” said Dr. Subzposh. This can bring on dizziness and heart palpitations.
Even after labor and delivery, a new mom isn’t out of the woods when it comes to her heart health including a risk of what’s called postpartum cardiomyopathy. Dr. Subzposh said, “This is something like congestive heart failure that can occur in a young, otherwise healthy woman where the heart fails to pump.” Symptoms include fluid buildup and shortness of breath. “These are things that can occur within the first couple weeks of pregnancy, not necessarily the first couple of days,” he said.
Dr. Subzposh has this bit of advice for any woman considering conceiving. “Make sure that you have a relatively stable, normal heart that can take the load of pregnancy.”
While it’s uncertain what’s behind the rise in maternal heart attacks, researchers are looking at such factors as obesity, diabetes and having babies later in life.