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HeartValveSurgery.com: Pregnancy & Heart Valve Disease—What Should Patients Know?

Patient education website HeartValveSurgery.com recently featured a video interview with cardiothoracic surgeon Joanna Chikwe, MD, professor and chair of the department of Cardiac Surgery in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, and Rose Tompkins, MD, associate director of the institute's Adult Congenital Heart Program. They dispelled myths about heart valve disease and pregnancy, and offered advice for navigating the experience safely.

Many women with heart valve disease mistakenly think that they cannot conceive because doctors have told them they shouldn't become pregnant. But Tompkins said that might not be the case. She advised these women to use contraception until they have discussed their options with an expert team.

"We really believe planned pregnancy is the best pregnancy," Tompkins told HeartValveSurgery.com.

When preparing to conceive, women with heart valve disease should aim to be as healthy as possible because their heart will work doubly hard to supply blood to the growing baby. "We call pregnancy nature's stress test," Chikwe said during the interview.

Counseling with a heart valve specialist before conceiving is key to a safe pregnancyespecially for women who have not had valve repair or replacement.

"The last thing we want to do is cardiac surgery during pregnancy," Chikwe said.

Tompkins said it's also important to discuss a woman's risks for abnormal heart rhythm, bleeding, heart failure, miscarriage and preterm delivery. But overall, the outlook is good for most.

"We can actually take a lot of patients very successfully through pregnancy," Tompkins told HeartValveSurgery.com.  

Click here to watch the complete interview on HeartValveSurgery.com.