More mothers give birth despite heart disease

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by Ohio State Wexner Medical Center

kvue.com

Posted on February 22, 2013 at 3:52 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 22 at 4:19 PM

Nikki Westphal always knew someday she would need surgery to repair her heart. Born with a defective aorta and irregular chambers, Westphal was able to control her condition until the age of 34. That’s when she decided it was time for corrective surgery. It’s also when she learned she was pregnant.

Not long ago women with heart problems were often discouraged from giving birth, but thanks to advances in medicine and changes in attitudes, that’s changing.

Remarkably, while she was six months pregnant, Westphal underwent open heart surgery, and today, she and her baby are doing well.

While her case is unique, doctors say its becoming more common, due in part to an aging society. Over the age of 40, a woman’s risk of heart disease nearly quadruples, yet that age group is one of the few having more babies, not fewer.

Birth rates in younger women are at historic lows, but in women over 40, they’re the highest they’ve been in nearly 50 years.

Click on the video player below to see Westphal’s story and learn more about pregnancy and heart disease.

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