When compared with women of the same age, pregnant moms (and those up to 12 weeks postpartum) have three to four times the risk of heart attack, according to a recent study presented at an American College of Cardiology meeting. Overall, the risk of heart attack is still quite low -- 1 out of 16,000 -- but the fact that this is triple or quadruple the rate of a nonpregnant woman of the same age should be noted.
Increased blood volume, hormonal changes and other physical changes are thought to be behind the higher risk. Narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) was present in only a third of the women who suffered from heart attacks, and normal risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes were not present in most cases.
Coronary dissection (where there is a separation of the layers in an artery that blocks the all-important blood flow) was the most common reason the mothers studied were found to experience heart attacks -- a condition rare in the nonpregnant population. And to further compound the issue, traditional methods for treating heart attacks may make the situation even more grave for the mom-to-be.
Should you worry?
No. Not really. Not even a little bit. The odds are still extremely low -- when you think about it, 1 out of 16,000 is 0.0000625 percent. Pretty unlikely to happen. You're more likely to conceive twins (1 out of 32), die in a car accident (1 out of 6,500), catch a ball at a major league ballgame (1 out of 563) or injure yourself with a chainsaw (1 out of 4,464).
So -- don't stress, but if you want to feel reassured, do talk with your care provider to find out the signs of a heart attack and what you can expect the doctors to do at the emergency room if you present with heart attack symptoms. She will help alleviate any concerns you may have and also help you maintain your good health.