Each year, about 700 women in the U.S. die from pregnancy-related problems, and more than 50,000 women have life-threatening pregnancy complications. Heart and blood vessel conditions, such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiomyopathy, are leading causes. The good news is that most of these problems are preventable, meaning you can take steps before, during, and after pregnancy to help your heart health.
Pregnancy-related heart problems can happen to any woman, but your risk may be higher if you:
In the United States, high blood pressure happens in 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies in women ages 20 to 44. Read more about high blood pressure in pregnancy.
If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, you can take these steps to help manage your heart health:
Heart and blood vessel problems in pregnancy can affect your heart health years and even decades after your child is born. For example, women who have gestational diabetes or any of the pregnancy-related high blood pressure disorders, such as gestational high blood pressure or preeclampsia, have a higher long-term risk of heart and blood vessel problems.
The first year after giving birth is an especially important time to work with your doctor. Some serious problems due to pregnancy can occur up to a year after delivery. Your doctor can also give you advice on developing heart-healthy habits for life.
Seeing the doctor regularly before and during your pregnancy is important for managing your risks. By taking regular height, weight, and blood pressure measurements, for example, your doctor can see how your body is adjusting to pregnancy’s changes. Take the opportunity to tell your doctor about any changes or symptoms you have noticed. Here are questions to discuss with your doctor.
Researchers supported by the NHLBI have raised awareness about the dangers of heart and blood vessel problems in pregnancy and their long-term impact on women’s health. We also regularly bring together experts to help us set priorities for research on topics such as preeclampsia, lack of sleep as a risk factor for disease, and disparities in women’s health during pregnancy. In particular, eliminating racial disparities in pregnancy-related illness and death is a priority. Our research is also exploring ways that heart and blood vessel problems can be prevented and treated in the future.
Learn more about pregnancy and heart health:
High blood pressure, an all-too-common feature of pregnancy, appears to carry risks for a woman’s cardiovascular health months or years after giving birth, and even shorten her life span.