Women who improve their heart health before pregnancy can reduce their medical risks later. This proactive approach can lower the likelihood of pregnancy complications. Starting early also protects mother and child from long-term problems, research shows.
Pregnancy puts stress on a woman’s heart. This can worsen any existing medical conditions, including heart conditions. Heart disease is the leading cause of maternal death.
Find a good health care professional. Making health a priority is important for a safe pregnancy. First, get a checkup. Discuss your pregnancy plans with your health care professional. And don't shy away from discussing any medical concerns and your family history. Know the risk factors for heart problems All women can benefit from improving their health before conception. But this is especially true if you have underlying medical conditions that might make heart problems more likely. Such conditions include obesity, diabetes or a family history of cardiovascular disease. Other factors that affect your heart health include: Being overweight (even without obesity) If you have a history of heart disease, talk to your health care team about whether it's safe to get pregnant. Women with congenital heart defects may have a higher risk of high blood pressure, loss of blood and anemia during pregnancy. Other severe heart conditions — such as heart failure or pulmonary hypertension — can pose life-threatening risks. Women with heart disease should be monitored before, during and after pregnancy. Make healthier choices. Adopting a healthier lifestyle goes a long way in preventing heart disease. If you're planning to conceive, here are ways you can improve your heart health: Stay physically active as recommended by your health care team. This can reduce your high blood pressure and diabetes risk. Exercise can also help you control your cholesterol. And it helps manage stress, which can take a toll on heart health. Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. This will greatly reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Get enough sleep. Women with sleep problems are more prone to cardiovascular and other complications. Manage stress. Find ways to relax. Learn more about major risk factors for heart disease and how to reduce your risk. Manage medical conditions before pregnancy. Besides making healthy lifestyle choices, some women, including those with existing heart disease, may need specialized care or monitoring, which can last from before conception until after childbirth. Pregnancy can worsen some conditions and be dangerous for both a woman and her developing baby. When talking to your health care team, be sure to: Discuss all medications before getting pregnant. Women taking some drugs should not become pregnant while on them. These include ACE inhibitors and ARBs for high blood pressure. But never stop taking a prescription medication without consultation. Mention vitamins and supplements you are taking. Some prenatal supplements might raise your blood pressure. Find ways to control high blood pressure. Besides appropriate medications, lifestyle changes can also help. Lose weight if advised to do so. Take extra precautions over age 35. Risk is higher for premature delivery, diabetes and other problems in older women. Your health care team can guide you.
Managing medical problems early can prevent some pregnancy complications. For instance, having high blood pressure, diabetes and/or obesity before pregnancy each can raise risk of preeclampsia, a dangerous blood pressure disorder. And roughly 4 in 10 cases of diabetes during pregnancy may be due to being overweight or obese before pregnancy. Early intervention also benefits a woman’s long-term health. One study found better heart care in early pregnancy was linked to less thickening of the inner layers of arteries in the neck 10 years after pregnancy. It also was associated with better postpartum cardiovascular health.