Station InitiativesWellness Wednesday


Protecting a woman's heart during pregnancy

Posted at 7:02 PM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 21:02:05-05

In Wellness Wednesday we’ve spent February focusing on women and their hearts. Heart diseases impacts women as much as men, and women sometimes deal with issues unique to them. One example – heart problems that can arise during pregnancy.

“We know that most women have uneventful pregnancies, healthy births, and healthy children. But we do know that it is a time of great risk in a woman's life, and especially around the time of childbirth,” said IntermountainMaternal Fetal Specialist Dr. Lexi Eller.

Some of those women have heart conditions they already know about. If that’s you, Eller says to plan carefully.

“It's very important for those women to use effective and safe contraception so that their pregnancies are planned.”

Every pregnant woman faces challenges, and some come out of the blue. For example, six to ten percent of pregnant women develop high blood pressure.

“The changes of pregnancy that happened in a woman's body are profound. And just the cardiovascular changes alone, the increased workload on the heart and the lungs. These are sometimes underestimated,” said Eller.

Eller continued, “One of the hardest things about pregnancy is that it creates all these new symptoms for women, and a lot of them mimic lung disease and heart disease, we would feel short of breath, women will often tell you, I just can't get a deep enough breath.”

So how do you figure out what’s normal and what’s a medical concern?

“It's really important for women to have a good open communication with their provider, with their midwife with your OB GYN, with your family doctor, about what symptoms you're having to help differentiate what might be concerning symptoms from what are normal pregnancy changes,” said Eller.

One of the toughest things during pregnancy is fear of a potential loss, and providers are prepared to help walk women through this difficult time.

“Many, many women want to be pregnant very much and want to have a healthy baby, right? And sometimes, it doesn't go that way. And when we can help walk women through those difficult experiences, I find that that's sort of a sacred space that we work in,” said Eller. "The day that I can participate in handing a mother a healthy newborn, in the setting of a healthy mom is just kind of beyond words to describe.”