A new study is claiming that just under 5% of all pregnant women have a healthy heart. Even more alarming, a majority of pregnant women at risk of heart disease won’t know it until it’s too late.
The study was conducted by Northwestern Medicine researchers that used 15 years of data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey — an annual report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While all pregnant women are at risk, the study shows that black women and younger women are at an increased risk of heart disease. As a result, researchers are urging cardiologists to take their role in preventing cardiovascular issues in pregnant women — something a majority of cardiologists aren’t trained on.
This new research is sure to spark a variety of other studies in the coming years. The American Heart Association has already sent out a recommendation that doctors start working together to better find a cause and a solution to this.
Why Are Pregnant Women At Risk?
The Northwestern Medicine researchers are claiming this study to be the first of its kind. There’s still a lot to learn about the health risks in pregnant women, but the study took a major step in learning more.
A majority of women affected were believed to be experiencing heart issues before pregnancy — though they might not have known. Much like women having to “eat for two” when pregnant, their heart has to work harder to support another living being.
With your heart working harder, it could reveal some underlying issues that haven’t been brought to the surface. And since a trip to the cardiologist won’t be on a majority of women’s pre-pregnancy check-ups, a lot of the signs get overlooked. This is why a majority of pregnant women are at risk of heart attack, chest pain, stroke, and other heart issues.
What About After the Baby is Born?
Once the baby is born, women can continue to experience heart complications for up to two months. Researchers say the six weeks after pregnancy will pose the biggest threat. Unfortunately, most women aren’t scheduling cardiologist visits during this time either.
Many experts are starting to urge pregnant women — especially those with heart disease or hypertensive disorders — to schedule a visit within two weeks of giving birth. They also recommend the utilization of nurse home visits.
Post-pregnancy is an essential time for the health of both the mother and baby. Frequent visits to the doctor will ensure you’re taking any precautions necessary.
What Can We Do About It?
There are plenty of things pregnant women, soon-to-be pregnant women, and women that just gave birth can do to protect their child’s health — as well as their own health. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to consult with your doctor. They’ll be able to run the right tests and guide you in the right direction.
A healthy diet can be a game-changer when supporting a healthy heart — or should we say two healthy hearts. Limiting sugar and salt, while replacing it with fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins will be recommended by most experts. Soft exercise can also prove beneficial, even if it’s just a walk to the corner store.
You’ll have to listen to your body throughout the pregnancy and following it. If you feel something is off, don’t hesitate to speak up to your doctor about it. Some conditions can fly under the radar, but our body will always tell us what we need to know.
If you’re experiencing chest pain, difficulty breathing (especially when lying down), or an alarmingly fast heart rate, it’s probably time to visit a cardiologist. These are all telling signs that there could be an issue.