So last post, I ran through what I mean by “my heart condition.”
I thought this post, I might write about what it meant for being pregnant.
To lay some groundwork, when I was a teenager and young adult cardiologists said that I might not be able to have kids. Not that I couldn’t, but that it’s very highly likely that I shouldn’t.
Before you start thinking “Way to go and ignore your doctors, Debra. You just had a baby!” In the last maybe 8 years or so, my doctors changed that. My current cardiologist told me a handful of years ago that it shouldn’t be a problem. I would be high risk, and have to be watched closer than a ‘normal’ woman, but I should be able – and could if I wanted – to have kids.
Now, as I mentioned last post in “Long Term Outlook,” the long term risk to me with my CHD and resulting enlarged heart is Congestive Heart Failure.
The four main symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure are:
1. Irregular heart beats
2. Swelling due to the heart not being able to keep up, extra fluid in the lungs and around the heart, but also showing up in ones legs, hands, etc.
3. Trouble breathing, particularly while lying down and resting (due to fluid around the lungs)
These are the things I keep an eye out for. However, symptom 1 is VERY common for me. My heart skips beats or races on a fairly often basis. So it’s hard to take any special note of that symptom, unless I seem to notice it happening more frequently then what would be ‘normal’ for me.
Increased Risk While Pregnant
With the increased blood flow and fluid retention that pregnancy brings, Congestive Heart Failure is a bigger risk.
The second symptom was extremely frustrating during pregnancy. I had some major swelling issues at about 3 months. It was a little early for pregnancy swelling, yet, it was difficult to determine if it was pregnancy or heart related.
My cardiologist suggested to cut down on sodium and see if that helped. Thankfully, it did! I was pretty bummed to have to be super cautious about how much sodium I was eating for 6 months – and it did affect our food budget as my normal way of cooking (with canned goods) had to be altered, but it made a huge difference. I only had a little swelling for the remainder of the pregnancy. And when I did, it could usually be traced to a higher sodium meal recently eaten, or having just spent a lot of time on my feet (which is normal for pregnancy).
The other main risk is once the baby is born. When the body is eliminating all the extra fluids. I was told to expect to stay in the hospital for observation for 4-5 days after our baby was born.
Z was born. And things looked to be going well. However, about 4 days later, one of my feet blimped up really bad, and really quickly. I was told it probably was NOT heart related as the typical MO for that would be that both feet would be equally swollen, not just one foot becoming very swollen. It was a little scary and they had me go in for an ultrasound to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot. Thankfully, I did not.
It was not a big enough concern for me to stay much longer in the hospital as I was discharged the next day. It did take my foot a week or so to finally get back down to size, which was such a relief when it did.
I did experience symptom 3 (trouble breathing while lying down) when I got home. It was concerning enough to call the cardiologist. They suggested that (since my heart was looking so good when I left the hospital) it might just be something that anemia (from loss of blood during the c-section) was causing. Funny enough, the second night I experienced this, I discovered that in actuality, I was having issues with Snoring! (Which is not normal for me.) As annoying as it was, it was such a relief.
The same night I had trouble breathing, I was also dizzy (symptom 4) at one point around 12:30 am. This only happened once and was also chalked up to being anemic.
So there you go. I was able to be pregnant, and have a child, while not having Congestive Heart Failure. But it was not without a few scares and I was so thankful for the great care from my cardiologist, my OB, as well as the nursing staff and of course my loving family.
What All This Means For My Child
To quick rehash from my previous post, heart defects are the most common birth defect – just about 1% of babies are born with one. Major ones can be very obvious from day one, and minor ones might not be caught until adulthood. Even though my heart defect is not due to genetics – it still increases the risk that my children will have a CHD. Statistics say bout 4-6%.
Jackpot! Little Z has a minor CHD. Because of the slightly higher statistical chance, at 20 weeks, and then again at 24 weeks because they thought they saw something – we had fetal echos done. Basically, a super long sonogram – focusing in on the little guy’s heart.
Based on those two tests, they recommended we have an echo done on Z once he was born, before he was discharged from the hospital. We did – and it confirmed the diagnosis: Pulmonary Stenosis. Same valve that I have an issue with, but different issue. He’s valve is slightly narrowed.
Thankfully, tests confirm it’s very mild and the long term outlook is quite good, probably not ever involving any type of surgery or procedure.
So there you go – more than you ever wanted to know about CHD and pregnancy.