Cardiovascular Disease in Pregnancy (Women’s Health Series)

Authors: Myrna Alexander Nickens, MD, Robert Craig Long, MD, PharmD, Stephen A. Geraci, MD


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death generally and the most common cause of death during pregnancy in industrialized countries. Improvement in early diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart disease has increased the number of women with such conditions reaching reproductive age. The growing prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, hyperlipidemia, and metabolic syndrome has concurrently added to the population of pregnant women with acquired heart disease, including coronary artery disease. Physiologic changes occurring during pregnancy can stress a compromised cardiovascular system, resulting in maternal morbidity, mortality, and compromised fetal outcomes. These risks complicate affected women’s decisions to become pregnant, their ability to carry a pregnancy to term, and the complexity and risk benefit of cardiovascular treatments delivered during pregnancy. Risk assessment indices assist the obstetrician, cardiologist, and primary care provider in determining the general prognosis of the patient during pregnancy and although imperfect, can aid patients in making informed decisions. Treatments must be selected that ideally benefit the health of both mother and fetus and at a minimum limit risk to the fetus during gestation.

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