Jun 19, 2019 | Updated: 09:31 AM EDT

Study Finds Women With Congenital Heart Disease at Low Risk When Giving Birth

Nov 20, 2014 08:45 PM EST

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Heart diseases are more likely to occur in strenuous situations
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Congenital heart disease occurs when there is a problem with the structure of the heart at birth. It would be a common assumption that those with congenital heart problems would be at a higher risk for heart-related problems when exposed to strenuous activities. However, a recent study presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meeting in Chicago revealed quite the contrary for women giving birth. Women with congenital heart disease are at low risk for heart-related complications when they give birth, the study suggests.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco analyzed data from more than 2.7 million women who gave birth in California, including over 3,200 who had congenital heart disease and 248 with complex congenital heart disease, a condition more advanced due likely to their having heart surgery when they were children.

In the new study, rates of heart failure, heart rhythm problems and heart attack were low for all three groups of women, and death rates were not significantly higher for those with complex congenital heart disease, the authors reported.

According to HealthDay, the researchers found that cesarean section deliveries were performed in 47 percent of those with complex congenital heart disease compared with 40 percent of women with non-complex congenital heart disease, and 33 percent of women without heart problems.

In addition, hospital stays after delivery were longer, on average, for women with complex congenital heart disease (5 days) compared with women with non-complex congenital heart disease (3.4 days) or women without heart problems (2.5 days).

"We are pleased to find the risk of complications are not as high as expected in women with congenital heart disease," according to Dr. Robert Hayward, lead author and a cardiac electrophysiology fellow of the University of California.

"While we don't know why these women have longer hospital stays, it's possible their doctors are keeping them admitted for extra observation," he added.

Hayward noted, however, that the study did not address the maternal health of those with congenital heart disease during pregnancy or postpartum, nor did it look at fetal health during pregnancy.

"The data allows us to see associations, but it does not suggest any cause and effect," he added. The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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