Good News on Heart Defects and Pregnancy

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Good News on Heart Defects and Pregnancy

Giving birth is no longer off the table for women with CHD

By Working Nurse
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Congenital heart disease (CHD) can mean many sacrifices, but the American Heart Association (AHA) now says that with proper care, having children no longer has to be one of them.

Nurse Research Pays Off

Even simple heart defects can create serious, potentially life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth. For years, that danger has led clinicians to counsel women with CHD against ever trying to have children. That’s now changed, thanks in part to research by Mary M. Canobbio, RN, MN, FAAN, a lecturer at UCLA School of Nursing and a program coordinator at Mattel Children’s Heart Center.

Canobbio recently chaired a panel of healthcare professionals in drafting new guidance on pregnancy and CHD. That guidance, published in the February 21 issue of the AHA journal Circulation, says that most CHD patients now have a good chance of successful pregnancy, so long as they have a knowledgeable, well-prepared care team. “This really represents a shift in thinking and offers new hope for a growing segment of our society,” says Canobbio.

Proceed With Caution

Although the new guidance is encouraging news for CHD patients who want to become mothers, pregnancy still carries significant risks that prospective parents need to consider. Not only does CHD increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature delivery, the strains of pregnancy and giving birth can seriously impact maternal health, sometimes permanently.

Also, in some cases, the chances of passing on a heart defect can be as high as 50/50, making pre-pregnancy genetic counseling a wise precaution. Above all, parents with CHD need to be sure that they have a cardiologist and labor & delivery team who understand the dangers involved and have the resources necessary for a high-risk delivery.

“It’s not an easy road and it needs to be managed extremely carefully by a whole team of people who know how to manage them,” Canobbio warns.

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