Associate Professor of Internal Medicine Division of Cardiology Wayne State University Detroit, Michigan and a Mother of Three
PREGNANCY POSES A SPEcial challenge to the mother's cardiovascular system. Unlike other vital organs such as the brain or the kidneys, the mother's heart must increase the amount of blood pumped to provide blood to the growing fetus and placenta. The increase is tremendous during the pregnancy and becomes intense during labor and delivery.
Pregnancy is also associated with symptoms that mimic heart disease. Pregnant women often complain of chest pain, leg swelling, and shortness of breath. In women who are not pregnant, these may signal an underlying cardiac problem.
For the woman born with heart disease or who develops heart disease in young adulthood, pregnancy-related risks may increase from the extra demands on the heart. Pregnancy may also unmask a previously undi-agnosed heart problem. However, with few exceptions, the majority of women, even those with heart disease, are able to safely com-
plete their pregnancy with proper, specialized prenatal care.
Was this article helpful?