Reproductive Health in Young Women with Congenital Heart Defects

​​​A congenital heart defect (CHD) is the most common type of birth defect. Due to advances in medical and surgical therapies, more than 90% of infants born with a CHD will live to see their 18th birthday.

As dreams of a full and rich adult life—including a career and family—frequently become reality, adolescents and adults should receive specialized cardiology care throughout their lifetime. The impact of a CHD and its interaction with typical conditions of adulthood such as pregnancy, diabetes, and hypertension must be considered as women living with CHD age.

​​​”Young women living with a CHD can expect better outcomes if they partner with their health care team when making health decisions, especially when it comes to reproductive health,” said Elyse Foster, M.D., a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the Congenital Heart Public Health Consortium (CHP​HC).

Anyone who has a heart murmur or had heart surgery as a child should be evaluated by a congenital cardiologist as an adult.

Women living with a CHD, specifically, can make informed choices and decrease their chances of a high-risk birth when they work with their health care team. While the overall risk of complications during pregnancy is relatively low, women with a CHD are still eight times as likely to experience cardiovascular complications during pregnancy. 

Reproductive health considerations should start even before a young woman is ready to start a family. These topics should include contraception, the decision to carry a pregnancy, and the challenges of parenting with a CHD. See the articles below for more information on each subject.

  • Birth Control for Young Women with a CHD
  • Preconception Counseling for Women with a CHD
  • Planning a Healthy Pregnancy with a CHD
  • Genetics and CHDs
  • Parenting with a CHD: Why Prioritizing Your Own Health Is Important

​”Guidelines and recommendations for care are available for the management of adult patients with congenital heart defects,” said Michelle Gurvitz, M.D., a cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a member of the CHPHC. “However, even with the availability of this information, too great a number of patients fall through the cracks in the system.” Dr. Gurvitz advocates for a team-based approach to care for her adult patients, including congenital cardiology, primary care and other specialties as needed—including obstetrics, gynecology and psychology.

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