Pregnancy and Congenital Heart Disease

If you have a congenital heart conditionAn OHSU cardiology specialist takes the pulse of a seated patient

The majority of women with congenital heart disease can have safe, successful pregnancies.

Still, we recommend that you see your heart specialist for pre-conception counseling if you are planning to become pregnant. Then we can figure out the best care management plan for you in advance of your pregnancy.

Throughout your pregnancy, we like to see you at least once each trimester for routine testing, to make sure you and your baby are doing well.

If you are pregnant and have been referred to the heart clinic

Your obstetrician may have referred you to our clinic if you:

  • Are experiencing heart palpitations (fast-beating heart or unusual heart rhythm)
  • Are experiencing shortness of breath with your daily activities
  • Have had a heart murmur detected

None of these symptoms necessarily indicate a problem. Shortness of breath and heart palpitations can occur in pregnancy, and most heart murmurs are benign. But we do need to see you to make sure everything is okay.

Other symptoms to watch for

If you experience chest pain or pass out, make an appointment to see us right away.

Other symptoms, such as dizziness or swelling in the legs, are very common in pregnancy. Yet if they disturb you, or seem extreme, call us please. (If you have been pregnant before, you may be able to compare these symptoms with those from a previous pregnancy or pregnancies, and note if they are different.)

Tests and treatment

If you experience symptoms that concern you or your obstetrician, you will be given the following standard, noninvasive painless tests:

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart's electrical activity. (This may be done at the heart clinic or in your primary care doctor's office.)
  • An echocardiogram to produce ultrasound images of your heart

If you seem to have an abnormal heart rhythm, you may also be given a heart monitor to wear on your chest for a period of some days.

If we detect a condition that requires treatment, we will address it with medications that are safe for pregnancy.

Heart-healthy mom, heart-healthy baby

When we treat your heart condition, we treat both you and your baby. We work closely with your obstetrician to ensure the best outcome for both of you.

If necessary, we may adjust your medication or have you come in more often. This is to make certain that your baby receives all the blood he or she needs, and that you remain well throughout your pregnancy.