Cardiovascular Disease – Leading Cause of Death related to Childbirth

Heart Disease in Young Women

 Statistics from the state of California confirmed the leading cause of death related to childbirth is cardiovascular disease:

                ♥1/4 of women who died had some form of cardiovascular disease

                ♥2/3 of the deaths were related to cardiomyopathy (heart muscle weakness)

ct-x-heart-pregnancy-0220-em.jpg-20130218Only 6% of these women had been diagnosed with a heart problem prior to pregnancy. (American Heart Association Scientific Session report)

We think of pregnant women as healthy vibrant individuals who do well and have healthy babies. But, pregnancy is a high risk condition for many reasons. Pregnancy places a large cardiovascular load on a woman’s body.

Young women without underlying heart disease are better prepared to tolerate the stress of pregnancy than older women. However many women are now delaying planned pregnancies until an older age when the potential for heart disease has increased.

Lifestyle, including food choices, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use all impact health during pregnancy. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes also increase risk to mother and infant. Cigarette smoking increases risk for sudden infant death and women who smoke are also more likely to suffer sudden death.

Two conditions often seen with pregnancy are: high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) and diabetes (gestational diabetes). Both require careful monitoring and treatment Women with these problems during pregnancy are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

Being overweight and pregnant places both mother and child at risk for cardiovascular disease and complications during delivery, including C-sections and anesthesia-related problems. Overweight pregnant women are more likely to have stillbirths, deliver prematurely and may have large infants making delivery difficult. Large babies are more likely to become obese in childhood.

Additional statistics: (From The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)

  • Over one-third of women living in the US are obese
  • More than one-half of pregnant women are overweight or obese
  • 8% of reproductive-age women are extremely obese & at high risk for pregnancy complications

Guidelines for pregnancy weight gain are calculated based on the woman’s pre-pregnant BMI (Body Mass Index). Details are available on the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website: www.acog.org  Search “Weight Gain During Pregnancy.”

 General guideline:

·         1.1 – 4.4 pounds in the first three months

·         1 pound/week during the last six months

·         The average total weight gain over all BMI ranges =  30 pounds

·         Low weight women: over 30 pounds may be acceptable

·         Obese women: gain only 11-20 pounds during the entire pregnancy

Nutrition counseling at all weights is very important to assure proper food choices and nutrition during pregnancy.

Before becoming pregnant, healthy choices, an active lifestyle (including daily exercise) and weight control are all important. Seek a full medical evaluation including laboratory studies before becoming pregnant. An exercise program and nutrition counseling will benefit mother and infant.

 

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