Mothers of babies with heart defect may be at risk themselves

Compared to mothers of infants without congenital heart defects, the researchers found 43 per cent higher risk of any cardiovascular hospitalisation in women whose offspring had critical heart defects.

The study of more than one million women also showed 24 per cent higher risk of any cardiovascular hospitalisation in women whose infants had non-critical defects.

For the research, published in the journal Circulation, the researchers analysed data on women who delivered infants between 1989 and 2013 in Quebec, Canada, who had critical, non-critical or no heart defects.

They tracked the women up to 25 years after pregnancy for hospitalisations related to cardiovascular disease including heart attack, heart failure, atherosclerotic disorders and heart transplants.

“Caring for infants with critical heart defects is associated with psychosocial and financial stress, which may increase the mothers’ long-term risk for cardiovascular disease,” said the study’s lead author Nathalie Auger from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Quebec.

While a genetic component cannot be excluded, the psychosocial impact of congenital heart disease on caregivers may have a cumulative effect over the long term because 85 per cent of infants with heart defects now survive past adolescence, suggests the study.

The researchers believe that the study provides an opportunity for these mothers to benefit from early prevention strategies and counselling to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease — the leading cause of death in women.

Healthcare providers, like obstetricians, who treat and follow mothers in the early stages of dealing with children who have heart defects can help women understand and minimise their risk, Auger said.

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