Pregnancy and birth control for women with congenital heart defects

Planning for pregnancy if you have a congenital heart defect

If you have a congenital heart defect and you are considering becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor about the health issues for a pregnant woman who has a congenital heart defect. Consider seeing a genetic counselor about the risk of passing a heart defect to your child.

Issues to consider regarding pregnancy

If you have a congenital heart defect, your pregnancy may be considered high-risk. Specific issues will need to be addressed with your doctor, such as:

  • Whether it is safe to become pregnant.
  • The timing and method of delivery.
  • The type of anesthesia or medicines that are safe to use during labor.
  • How you will be monitored throughout your pregnancy.
  • Whether you need to take antibiotics to prevent endocarditis.
  • Whether you need to take blood thinners (anticoagulants) to prevent blood clots.

You may have a cardiologist involved with your care throughout your pregnancy and delivery. A fetal echocardiogram can be done as early as 16 to 18 weeks of pregnancy to check for congenital heart defects in the fetus. Other testing such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis may be done.

Birth control options if you have a congenital heart defect

If you have a congenital heart defect, you also will need to carefully consider the type of birth control you use. You can talk with your family doctor, gynecologist, or cardiologist about the right option for you. In general:

  • Barrier devices (condoms, diaphragms) are safest.
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs) generally are not recommended because of the potential risk of infection and bleeding.
  • Birth control pills that contain estrogen may not be recommended because of the risk of blood clots.

Also, hormone (progestin) injections are not recommended for most women who develop heart failure from heart defects. These injections may increase fluid retention.

Last Updated: October 12, 2009

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