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Preventing heart disease may curb pregnancy-related deaths

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, taking over 650,000 lives every year. The most common heart condition is coronary artery disease, affecting nearly 7% of people over 20 years old.

Heart conditions can wreak havoc on the other systems of the body, especially in pregnant women. Carrying a child puts a significant strain on the heart. Those with pre-existing heart conditions are much more likely to suffer birth injuries and pregnancy-related deaths.

Pregnancy-related deaths are on the rise

Over the past 20 years, the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. has doubled. According to a statement from the American Health Association (AHA), these deaths stem directly from the rise in heart disease. The statement, co-authored by cardiologists at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, offers recommendations for birth centers and hospitals to combat this rise.

Carrying a child puts intense strain on the heart. The first trimester of pregnancy causes the mother’s heart rate to increase while their blood pressure decreases. The second and third trimesters increase both heart rate and blood pressure to levels which the body maintains until birth. These swings can strain a healthy heart but can prove deadly for those with pre-existing conditions.

To help mothers and their unborn children, the AHA recommends that birth centers and hospitals take pre-emptive action by forming a cardio-obstetrics team. This team of cardiologists, fetal medicine specialists, geneticists, obstetricians, and nurses collaborate on a comprehensive plan to help at-risk mothers managing their heart conditions before, during and after pregnancy. This team will design preconception counseling plans to account for conditions like preeclampsia and hypertension disorders. The AHA notes that women who develop preeclampsia have a 71% risk of cardiovascular death and are four times more likely to experience heart failure in their lifetime.

Did a doctor overlook a heart condition? Consider contacting a lawyer

Doctors are not infallible and may miss pre-existing conditions during pregnancy. Those who suffered consequences in their birth or resulting heart problems can contact a local attorney to assess their case and discuss possible legal action.