Women With Heart Disease at Low Risk When Giving Birth: Study

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Women with congenital heart disease are at low risk for heart-related complications when they give birth, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 2.7 million women who gave birth in California, including more than 3,200 who had congenital heart disease and 248 with complex congenital heart disease, which means their condition was more advanced and they likely had heart surgery when they were children.

Congenital heart disease occurs when there is a problem with the structure of the heart at birth.

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.

The researchers found, however, 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).

The study was presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meeting in Chicago. The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"We are pleased to find the risk of complications are not as high as expected in women with congenital heart disease," lead author Dr. Robert Hayward, a cardiac electrophysiology fellow of the University of California, San Francisco, said in an AHA news release.

"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.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on congenital heart defects.