Defibrillators Women and Defibrillators

Does having an ICD affect pregnancy?

Usually having an ICD does not affect a person’s ability to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to full term. Pregnancy does not seem to raise the risk of getting more shocks or harming the fetus.

However, women with underlying heart conditions or other health problems should talk to a healthcare provider before becoming pregnant to discuss the risks, a possible need to change medicines, and plans for care during pregnancy. If you become pregnant and did not plan it, talk to your provider right away.

Is a subcutaneous (SICD) uncomfortable with a bra?

SICDs are placed just under the skin on the side of your rib cage, usually near the left breast. In a survey of women who have SICDs, almost all said that they trusted their device to help them survive a cardiac arrest. Still, about half reported that the devices interfered with their bras, causing some discomfort.

Before surgery, talk with your healthcare provider about where the SICD will be implanted. Ask them to mark the area on your body where the SICD will be. Check the location with your bra on. Having the SICD implanted just above the lower bra band and toward your back may be the best place. The site should allow the SICD to function properly while reducing discomfort.

Some women prefer sports or nursing bras for comfort after getting an SICD. The lump where the SICD is may show under tight garments or swimsuits.

Are mammograms (breast imaging scans) safe with an ICD?

Be sure the mammogram technician knows about your device so they can avoid damaging it when your breast is compressed. The technician can also take steps to make you more comfortable during the scan.

If you healthcare provider recommends that you undergo a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, notify them about your device to ensure that steps are taken to keep you safe and avoid damaging the device.

Do breasts affect how an AED works?

An AED can save the life of anyone having a cardiac arrest, regardless of their sex, age, or race. However, studies show that women are less likely than men to receive AED treatment and CPR if they have a cardiac arrest in a public place. Studies suggest some possible reasons for this and offer ideas to close the gap:

  • CPR and AED training often uses flat-chested manikins or dummies, so people don’t learn that emergency treatment is the same whether breasts are present or not. Instructors need to explain that AEDs work for everyone. They should demonstrate how to remove or cut off a person’s clothing, including a bra, from the upper body. When possible, training should include manikins with breasts.
  • People may not recognize symptoms of cardiac arrest in women as a cardiac arrest. Anyone who collapses, is unresponsive, and is not breathing normally is probably in cardiac arrest. Bystanders should act immediately, regardless of the person’s sex.
  • Some people may feel shy or embarrassed about exposing a person’s breasts. They may worry that their action could be seen as inappropriate. AEDs save lives. No one should delay this life-saving treatment. AEDs include scissors to cut away clothing from the upper body.
  • Some people may hesitate to use an AED because of concerns that AEDs might not work on people with breasts. AEDs work the same way, using the same electrode placement, on people with breasts.
  • People may think that older women are frail and likely to be injured by emergency treatment. Cardiac arrest is fatal without emergency treatment. Using an AED or performing CPR is unlikely to cause serious injury and can save a life.

Visit The Heart Truth to learn about heart disease in women.

Advancing women's heart health fact sheet
Fact sheet

Advancing Women’s Heart Health Fact Sheet

Learn how heart disease may be different for women than for men.

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