You've made the decision, and you're ready. It's time to start trying to have a baby. I remember when I decided to start the process of trying to get pregnant, I didn't think about taking prenatal vitamins or getting a physical, and I definitely didn't think about how taking care of my heart would be important for having a baby. Because February is American Heart Month, I checked in with Odayme Quesada, MD, Medical Director, The Christ Hospital Women's Heart Center, about how to prepare your heart for baby.
Pregnancy is a stress test
Dr. Quesada said it is important to optimize your heart health before trying to have a baby because pregnancy has been described as "a women's first stress test". We know that women with risk factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and hypertension are at a higher risk of failing that stress test and developing complications like preeclampsia.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is hypertension (high blood pressure) and evidence of damage to other organs, typically the kidneys, which is why many women have more protein in their urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Every woman is at risk for preeclampsia, but women with risk factors like high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and hypertension are at a higher risk. Moms that use in vitro fertilization or are older when they become pregnant are also at higher risk. Preeclampsia, if not recognized and treated, can lead to eclampsia, which causes seizures and is very dangerous.
Know your numbers
We also know that heart disease is the number one killer in moms, and preeclampsia is a big contributor to that. In order to make sure that your heart is in excellent condition before you conceive, make sure you know your numbers—cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure. A visit to your primary care doctor is a great idea. If you happen to have a pre-existing heart condition and want to get pregnant, Dr. Quesada recommends that you see your cardiologist and discuss this plan, as you may need additional evaluation before that is possible. In addition, women may need to stop certain medications that can be harmful to the baby.
Learn more about how The Christ Hospital Women's Heart Center can help you, or schedule an appointment with Dr. Quesada.