More women with heart disease are having babies

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The prevalence of women with heart disease delivering babies increased by 24 percent from 2003-2012, report researchers.

This jump, reported in the American Journal of Cardiology, may prompt greater awareness of heart disease in women of childbearing age and heighten individual screening of heart disease in pregnant patients.

Heart disease is the most common cause of death among pregnant women in the United States and other developed countries. There remain significant gaps in understanding of the prevalence, trends, and outcomes of heart disease in pregnancy in the US population. Investigation of trends and outcomes in heart disease and pregnancy has been limited.

In this study, researchers used the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s National Inpatient Sample to better determine the trends and relationship between women with heart disease and delivering babies. To do this, they studied existing heart conditions and outcomes using a large sample of women with heart disease (81,295) and without heart disease (39,894,032).

“We learned that in addition to the high and growing prevalence of women with heart disease delivering babies, the reasons are mainly related to increases in women delivering babies with diseases such as cardiomyopathy, adult congenital heart disease, and pulmonary hypertension,” says lead author Kathleen Stergiopoulos, professor of medicine in Stony Brook University’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, and a specialist in heart disease in women at the Stony Brook Heart Institute.

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The study also shows that major adverse cardiac events in pregnant women with heart disease increased by nearly 19 percent, and there is a significant and gradual increase in these events for women who have delivered babies and have heart disease. The most common events for women with heart disease were heart failure and arrhythmia.

According to Stergiopoulos, while a maternal death is a rare event, the findings should affect clinical practices when caring for women with heart disease who are pregnant.

She emphasizes that future strategies to mitigate risk in these women include individualized preconception counseling and heart disease risk stratification, meticulous pregnancy follow-up, and a coordinated approach to labor and delivery for those with heart disease that includes specialists from cardiology, maternal fetal medicine, obstetrical anesthesiology, and neonatology.

Support for the research came from the American Heart Association and an American Medical Association Foundation Seed Grant.

Source: Stony Brook University