Congenital Heart Defects: Pregnancy

Topic Overview

Both women and men who have a congenital heart defect need to think about a few things when planning a pregnancy. These include the risks of passing a heart defect to your child as well as the possible health risks of a pregnancy for a woman who has a heart defect.1, 2

Plan a pregnancy

If you are thinking of becoming pregnant and you or your partner has a congenital heart defect, there are a couple of things to think about.

  • Think about talking with a genetic counselor about the risk of passing a heart defect to your child.
  • If you are a woman who has a congenital heart defect, ask your doctor if being pregnant might cause any health problems. Pregnancy may raise certain health risks, so your doctor will check your health during pregnancy. And your doctor can help you stay healthy while you are pregnant.

Work with your doctor

If you have a congenital heart defect, your pregnancy may be considered high-risk. Specific issues will need to be addressed with your doctor, such as:

  • Whether it is safe to become pregnant.
  • The timing and method of delivery.
  • The type of anesthesia or medicines that are safe to use during labor.
  • How you will be monitored throughout your pregnancy.
  • Whether you need to take antibiotics to prevent endocarditis.
  • Whether you need to take blood thinners (anticoagulants) to prevent blood clots.

Health care during and after pregnancy

You may have a cardiologist involved with your care throughout your pregnancy and delivery.

A fetal echocardiogram can be done as early as 16 to 18 weeks of pregnancy to check for congenital heart defects in the fetus. Other testing, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, may be done.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Sable C, et al. (2011). Best practices in managing transition to adulthood for adolescents with congenital heart disease: The transition process and medical and psychosocial issues: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(13): 1454–1485.
  2. Warnes CA, et al. (2008). ACC/AHA 2008 Guidelines for the management of adults with congenital heart disease: Executive summary: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 118(23): 2395–2451.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Larry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
Last Revised September 6, 2013

Last Revised: September 6, 2013

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