Pregnancy Care for Women With Heart Conditions

Dr. Pare and Dr. Khan speak with a patient

"A couple came in whose local care provider told them they should never become pregnant," says Abigail Khan, M.D., a cardiologist who specializes in heart disease in women. "We told them that pregnancy was a possibility." 

With the right pre-pregnancy planning and pregnancy care, most women with heart conditions or heart disease can have safe, successful pregnancies. The OHSU Center for Women's Health brings these patients all the care they need in one clinic, the Maternal Cardiac Program.  

Two expert providers; one clinic 

Dr. Khan works with Center for Women's Health obstetricians who specialize in complex pregnancies. Like perinatologist Emmanuelle Paré, M.D. Women who visit the clinic see Dr. Khan and Dr. Paré back to back, and the two experts work together to create a pregnancy and treatment plan. 

"It's so much easier for patients," says Dr. Khan. "We review cases together and make sure we create the optimal plan." 

Dr. Paré notes that she and her colleague are developing new expertise through the clinic. "The more patients we see, the better we are at knowing whether symptoms like shortness of breath or palpitations are due to pregnancy or heart disease," she says. "Our joint expertise helps us hopefully pick up complications earlier in pregnancy." 

Advance planning is key 

While it's never too late in pregnancy for a patient to come to the clinic, women with heart conditions or heart disease do best when they make a plan for their pregnancy in advance. 

"These women are at increased risk of heart problems during pregnancy," says Dr. Paré. "But proper planning and care can decrease the risk of complications." 

Even if pregnancy is a long-term goal or if pregnancy prevention is a patient's priority, the Maternal Cardiac Program can help. Drs. Khan and Paré can counsel women about the risks they could face if they became pregnant, no matter their goal. 

"We want patients to be well-informed and decide for themselves, based on the risks, whether pregnancy is right for them," says Dr. Khan.