CHDs and Pregnancy
Why are Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) an issue?
The chances of reaching adulthood for most girls who are born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) are higher today. Although many women are capable of becoming pregnant, women with a moderately complex or complex CHD might have a higher risk throughout pregnancy to have complications. The risks of complications are both for the fetus and the mother.
When doctors evaluate pregnant women in the beginning of pregnancy, they will want to measure the oxygen levels in the blood and measure the woman’s heartbeat. They will also likely take an ultrasound of the heart to produce a visual display of the heart and its function.
In pregnant women, blood will have an increased chance to coagulate (clot), throughout the pregnancy. Since every pregnancy is individualized, some women may need a blood thinner during pregnancy. The type of anticoagulant (a blood thinner) that might be used will depend on the needs of the woman.
History and Heredity
Your cardiologist (Heart Doctor) will want to know details of your heart history and any procedure or surgery done to the heart, including palliative care (treating rather than curing the problem) and anything to help repair the heart.
A family history can play a huge role in the pregnancy. Knowing the family history in the past three generations can help determine to what extend a CHD might be passed down to the next generation. Knowing the complete family health history might also be helpful for the physician during a pregnancy.
We focus on pregnant women with a CHD for several reasons. Utah has the youngest adult population and the highest birth rate in the US. This makes Utah ideal for assessing this extremely vulnerable population that has not been studied thoroughly.
Between 2008 and 2013, Utah women had a 30% higher rate of fertility compared to the average in the United States. The fertility rate measures the average number of children that a woman has over her lifetime per 1,000 women. Approximately 325,000 pregnancies took place during this time period.