Women's Heart

Expectant mothers with a high-risk pregnancy face an increased risk of cardiovascular complications during and after pregnancy. At the Riverside Women’s Heart Center, we partner with your OB/GYN or Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist to develop a collaborative care plan to address the needs of both mom and baby.

Often, your OB/GYN will refer you directly to our Women’s Heart Center, but patients may also call directly to schedule an appointment if they have concerns about their cardiovascular health during pregnancy. Please call the clinic closest to you and please be sure and let us know you are pregnant when you call to schedule your appointment.

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Your Cardiovascular System and Pregnancy

As your body changes to nourish your baby, your heart changes as well. The American College of Cardiology reports increased demands on the cardiovascular system during pregnancy, including:

  • Increase in blood volume: Blood volume is the total amount of blood in your body. Your body has to make more blood during your pregnancy. During the first trimester, your body will increase the amount of blood by 40-50%, and it will remain that high throughout your pregnancy.
  • Increase in cardiac output: Cardiac output is a measure of how much blood is pumped through your heart each minute. With the increased amount of blood in your body, the heart has to work harder. Cardiac output can increase by 40-50% during the first trimester. Increase in heart rate: Heart rate measures how many times your heart beats in a minute. Your heart rate increases during pregnancy as the heart has to work harder and faster to move all of the blood through the body.
  • Decrease in your blood pressure: With pregnancy, blood pressure can decrease by 10 mm Hg, related to the hormone changes in your body and how much blood your body is re-routing towards the uterus.

This increased demand on your heart to work harder and faster is a significant reason why you sometimes hear pregnancy referred to as “nature’s stress test.” With the increased workload of the cardiovascular system, some women can develop cardiovascular complications during pregnancy, including:

  • Gestational hypertension
  • Eclampsia
  • Preeclampsia
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy

After a high-risk pregnancy, the conditions often resolve within a few months, but the impact on the body’s cardiovascular health can be longer-lasting. Even if it was decades ago, women who have experienced a high-risk pregnancy are at an increased risk for heart and vascular disease later in life.

It’s important to tell your doctor about any pregnancy complications you have experienced in the past, including:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Gestational hypertension
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia
  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy
  • Pre-term birth(s)
  • Small for gestational age

Whether you are currently pregnant or experienced a high-risk pregnancy decades earlier, the Riverside Women’s Heart Center is here to help you stay healthy and well. We will work with you to perform a cardiac risk assessment to determine your individual risk and create a plan to address any concerns.