Heart Disease is Number One Cause of Pregnancy-Related Deaths in California

Morning SicknessDr. Morice, a low-cost tubal reversal surgeon, always advises his patients to keep their heart healthy, whether pregnant or not. Heart disease can lead to a myriad of problems. Today, however, a recent study shows that the number one cause of pregnancy-related deaths in California between 2002 and 2005 was heart disease, and these results may be applicable to the rest of the country.

The study examined 732 women who died while pregnant between 2002 and 2005. Of those, 209 deaths were found to be caused by pregnancy, and 51 of the 209 were attributed to heart disease. This is approximately a quarter of all pregnancy-related deaths. Only 6% of these women had been diagnosed with heart disease prior to pregnancy, and only 25% were diagnosed during pregnancy. This staggering finding highlights that heart disease and its symptoms need to be more closely monitored. It is estimated that one third of the deaths could have been prevented with proper diagnosis and treatment.


Heart diseased, if treated, can be safely managed during pregnancy. Today’s blog serves to inform you of the symptoms of heart disease so that you can notice any of the warning signs and discuss them with your doctor.


What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a broad term that encompasses any abnormalities of heart functionality, leading to a “diseased” heart that doesn’t perform perfectly. Heart conditions that can cause heart disease include:

  • Congenital heart disease: Any heart defect that one is born with.
  • Cardiac arrhythmia: Abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Coronary heart disease: Caused by blockages in the arteries that limit blood flow, and therefore delivery of oxygen, to the heart muscle.
  • Heart valve disease: If one of the 4 valves of the heart don’t function properly,
  • Pericardial disease: A disease of the surrounding membrane of the heart, the pericardium.
  • Myocardial heart disease: A disease of the heart muscle, or myocardium.


Why does heart disease affect pregnant women more than non pregnant women?

Women with no heart conditions don’t normally have problems during pregnancy. Those with any existing heart conditions, including heart disease, may develop problems during pregnancy due to the increased load that is put on the heart. The heart pumps about 40% more blood during pregnancy. This increased workload likens pregnancy to a stress test that lasts 9 months. Under these conditions, any heart abnormalities can be exacerbated, leading to heart disease. If you have a known heart condition, your doctor can help monitor and manage it to help avoid any complications.


What are the symptoms of heart disease?


The symptoms of heart disease include;

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of arms and hands
  • Loss of energy, feeling extremely tired
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness


How is heart disease treated?

Heart disease is treated in a number of ways, depending on the cause of your heart disease. During pregnancy, the medications that treat heart disease often have risks that outweigh the benefits of taking them. Dr. Morice examines each patient individually to determine if medication is needed.


What are the risk factors for heart disease?

The researchers of this study also found that women who were most likely to die from heart disease during pregnancy were African American, obese, or had documented substance abuse during pregnancy. If you fit into any of these categories, you may be at increased risk of pregnancy-related heart complications. The study also found that a quarter of the women who died from heart disease had been diagnosed with high blood pressure during pregnancy. Therefore, pregnancy-related hypertension needs to be diagnosed and treated to prevent further complications.


While heart disease can pose serious threats during pregnancy, if managed properly, complications can be avoided. If you are or are planning on being pregnant, speak with Dr. Morice about your family history, risk factors, and any current heart conditions you have.


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