Dr. Jennifer Haythe on Cardiovascular Health & Pregnancy


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Post By: Dr. Jennifer Haythe – Cardiologist & Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center

While heart disease is uncommon in pregnancy, it’s certainly not rare. Approximately 4% of pregnancies are affected by cardiovascular disease. And as women have started having babies later, risk factors for heart disease like diabetes and hypertension are more common in expectant moms. In addition, congenital heart disease is being repaired more effectively in childhood and young women with prior heart surgery are growing up to have babies of their own.

Beside high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, at-risk pregnant women can suffer from palpitations and arrhythmias, chest pains, valvular lesions, and heart failure. Women who have known heart issues should be referred to a cardiologist who specializes in the care of pregnant women with cardiac disease. In addition, women with a history of chemotherapy or chest radiation should see a cardiologist prior to becoming pregnant to be sure your heart is healthy and ready for the demands of pregnancy and child birth.  The good news is that almost all cardiac problems can be treated safely and effectively by a solid medical team comprised of an obstetrician, cardiologist, anesthesiologist and pediatrician.

Because the symptoms of normal pregnancy can be similar to the symptoms of heart disease, women can be under diagnosed. Examples include shortness of breath, fast heart rate, palpitations and lower extremity swelling. Discuss any of these symptoms with your OB-GYN. In addition, be sure to schedule a glucose tolerance test in a timely fashion to ascertain if you have gestational diabetes. Your doctor should take your blood pressure at every visit and if high, medication may be indicated.

Pre-eclampsia is a disorder characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and swelling of the hands and feet. Your OB-GYN will monitor you for pre-eclampsia and treat you accordingly. It is diagnosed in about 10% of pregnant women. is a disorder characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and swelling of the hands and feet. Women who have had pre-eclampsia are at risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.

Pregnancy is a wonderful and exciting time for the whole family. The best way to ensure that you stay healthy is to keep up with your doctor, get regular prenatal care, and if a cardiac issue should arise, seek prompt treatment. Your team will help guide you through and answer your questions along the way.

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Dr. Jennifer Haythe is a practicing Cardiologist as well as the Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, Co-Director for the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health, Director of the Adult Pulmonary Hypertension Center and Director of the Cardiac Obstetric Service.

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