CHD and Childbirth

“…sometimes, important things get ignored or don’t get said.” – Judge Tolliver, The Jack Bull (1999)

Can a woman with a heart defect bear a child?

The answer is… perhaps. The question varies from woman to woman. Having a defect does increase the chances of having a child with a heart defect, and I am sure that is a “gift” that no parent wants to pass on. Perhaps the better question is should a woman with a Heart Defect attempt to get pregnant?

I can’t answer this question… you need to discuss this with your Cardiologist. Sometimes a defective heart can’t take the stress of nine months of pregnancy. Other times, with the help of a OBGYN trained in high risk pregnancies, the mother can have a child. And there are women who have a CHD who won’t need any extra precautions at all. As I have said before, every heart defect is a little different, and affects the owner differently. A friend of mine should not, under any circumstances, get pregnant… but she and her husband are exploring other options. She’s on her way to becoming a momma, just taking a different path. I’ve met Heart Moms who are really Heart Moms – they’re the one with the defective heart. I’ve met young women who are supremely frustrated because their Cardiologist keeps telling them it would be a bad idea, and I have met childless women who seem to be at peace with their situations.

Any CHDer, but especially a woman thinking of having a child, needs to think it through completely and discuss it with your doctor. Your Primary Care Doctor needs to be consulted, but you really need to consider the opinion of your Cardiologist.  A recent study conducted in Germany showed that nearly half of the women with a Heart Defect had not received any counsel about pregnancy or contraception. And nearly 20% were taking birth control that was contraindicated for them. (In other words, they had a health problem that was listed in the “Do not take this drug if you suffer from…” section.)

The bottom line is that all CHDers – male and female – are best served by looking after themselves. Our health challenges are so specialized that “sometimes the important things don’t get said.” It’s your health, your body, and you have to look out for yourself. The only exception is when you are young; then it’s your parents job to ask the questions. And teach you how to do the same when you grow up.

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2 Responses to “CHD and Childbirth”

  1. Margareta Barrs Says:

    Hi – can I just say that there have been 2 women with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) who have had 1 child each (heart healthy)- both have now had their child.

    Hopefully this information is good news to some parents of female children with CHDs, esp HLHS.

  2. Renee Says:

    Thank you for blogging about this issue. I think it’s something that is really lagging when we speak about adult care for CHD’s. Part of it I think stems from so many CHDer’s still seeing pediatric cards and some of it is just pure lack of empirical data with many more women living healthy lives longer. As an HRHS CHDer who is 11 weeks pregnant it was a long road, including a valve replacement, to get to this point. Thank you for bringing this issue into the forefront.

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