Dr. Jairan L. Duke-Elmore, obstetrician at Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida

What women should know about heart disease and pregnancy

Dr. Jairan L. Duke-Elmore, obstetrician at Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida answers common questions about pregnancy and heart disease.

When you’re a mom-to-be, you may have many questions. Talk with an OB-GYN who listens -- no question is too small.Dr. Jairan L. Duke-Elmore, obstetrician at Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida, addresses how heart disease can affect women during pregnancy.

What heart problems can occur during pregnancy?

A heart attack is not extremely uncommon during pregnancy. It's also possible to develop cardiomyopathy. You can have fluid overload that challenges the heart. There are other less common complications that can occur dependent on your family history and other risk factors. The four biggest risk factors for developing heart disease during pregnancy include being of over the age of 40 , pre-existing high blood pressure, obesity and of African American descent. 
What is the most common heart disease during pregnancy?

The most common heart disease during pregnancy is acquired heart disease. It accounts for 97percent of the heart disease occurring during pregnancy. The risk factors and lifestyle factors that increase your risk for heart attack outside of pregnancy, increase the risk of heart disease during pregnancy.

Can I get my heart checked while pregnant?

You can get your heart checked during pregnancy. If you have known risk factors, it's actually ideal to have a visit with a cardiologist prior to becoming pregnant to evaluate your baseline before you develop all the complications of pregnancy. Even if you have never seen a cardiologist or did not see one before becoming pregnant, you can be seen and evaluated during pregnancy.

How can I keep my heart healthy during pregnancy?

The most important thing to do to promote good cardiovascular health during pregnancy is come into pregnancy healthy. Being active, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise are good ways to reduce your risks. The value of exercise can't be underscored enough. When women come into pregnancy very fit, they tend to have a healthier, lower risk of complications of multiple types throughout pregnancy.

What are the heart attack symptoms in pregnant women? 

The symptoms of a heart attack or injury during pregnancy can be the same as the ones that occur outside of pregnancy, such as chest pain or discomfort. In pregnancy, you can have additional symptoms such as; persistent elevation of the heart rate above 120 per minute while at rest and abnormal fluid retention. One problem is that a lot of the symptoms that suggest heart disease are similar to the symptoms that occur during pregnancy anyways. So if you have any concerns, it’s always best to reach out to your doctor. If you are experiencing chest pain, especially in combination with jaw or arm pain, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting or difficulty breathing, you might be having a heart attack. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Find a doctor who listens

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to having a baby, and no one knows your body better than you do. Your preferences are important. That’s why the conversation between you and your OB-GYN, midwife, birth designer and nurse matters. Your care team at Ascension Sacred Heart in Northwest Florida, starts by listening to you. As you share your questions, concerns and expectations, we listen to understand you. To find a doctor visit sacredheartbaby.com.