Pregnancy & Birth Control

Can women with CHD get pregnant?

In general, having CHD doesn’t affect your chances of getting pregnant (see our section below on birth control)

Is it safe for women with CHD to get pregnant?

Most women with CHD can safely get through pregnancy.If you are thinking about pregnancy, you and your partner should make an appointment with your cardiologist to discuss the risks to you and your baby before you become pregnant.

However, there are pregnancy risks for some women with CHD.

Women with certain types of CHD are at higher risk for problems during pregnancy. This list includes women with:

  • Low oxygen levels (cyanosis)
  • A mechanical heart valve
  • Major valve narrowing or leakage
  • High pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
  • Reduced heart function (heart failure)
  • A higher risk of expansion/tearing of the aorta (including Marfan Syndrome. Loeys-Dietz Syndrome and Turner Syndrome)
  • Single ventricle circulation (with or without a Fontan surgery)

When a woman is pregnant, the amount of blood the heart has to pump significantly increases and this puts a strain on the heart. This can lead to problems in women with certain types of CHD.

You should talk to your cardiologist about pregnancy before you even start trying to get pregnant. And don’t forget that accidents do happen. It’s important to learn how your heart would handle pregnancy and to decide on the safest approach for pregnancy and delivery. This may involve visits to your cardiologist during pregnancy.

Some of our doctors are part of a team of experts that understands CHD and pregnancy. These doctors can talk to you about the risk of pregnancy to help you decide if pregnancy is right for you.

Would my baby be born with CHD?

Most people with CHD have a slightly higher chance of having a baby born with CHD. Whether you are male or female, it’s a good idea to talk to your own doctor to find out the chance of your baby being born with a heart condition.

Birth Control

Who can I talk to about birth control?

Not all doctors know about which types of birth control are best and safest for people with CHD.Some of our doctors are part of a team of experts that focus on CHD, birth control and pregnancy. These doctors can talk to you about which birth control method is best and safest for you. The service is entirely confidential.

You may not be having sex, and that’s okay. But if and when you want to talk about birth control, just let us know. Some patients feel awkward when first talking about these topics. Don’t worry – we won’t make it into a big deal.

What should I know about specific types of birth control?

If you are having sex, you need to figure out which method of birth control is best for you. Some birth control methods are more effective than others. Also, some birth control methods are not safe for women with some types of CHD.

Withdrawal. This is one of the least effective forms of birth control because pregnancy still occurs in up to 25% of people who use this method. Also, it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Condoms. These are safe and prevent most STIs. Because pregnancy still occurs in up to 20% of couples that use condoms as their only form of birth control, extra forms of contraception (like birth control pills) are a good idea.

Birth control pills. There are lots of different pills used for birth control. They are good forms of birth control with relatively few side effects. But they only work if you take them every day. That’s why pregnancy still occurs in 8% of women using birth control pills. The other problem with birth control pills is that they don’t protect against STIs.

Other types of contraception. Other types of birth control such as intra-uterine devices (IUDs), patches and injections, may also be safe. You can ask your doctor about these.

The good news is that women with CHD have choices when it comes to birth control and pregnancy. Our clinic can help women decide which options are best for them. There is a safe and effective option for everyone.

Can I take any birth control pill I want?

Some birth control pills contain a hormone called estrogen. These pills (also known as combined pills) are not recommended for people with the following:

  • Metal heart valves
  • Reduced heart function / heart failure
  • Complex heart conditions (like Fontan, unrepaired Tetralogy of Fallot)
  • Low oxygen levels or cyanosis
  • High pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
  • Migraine with aura
  • Blood clots

If you don’t know whether this list includes you, ask your cardiologist.

A different hormone, called progesterone or progestin, can also be used for birth control and is safe for most heart conditions. Some of the progestin birth control methods are more effective than others. Progestin-only birth control comes in many forms including a daily pill, an injection that lasts for 3 months, and other options that last for 3-5 years.

What about the guys?

I know what you’re thinking – guys can’t have babies! That’s true, but birth control is still important for you to discuss with your partner. It takes two to become pregnant! Condoms are the best choice because they also reduce your risk of genital herpes, pubic lice, etc.

Want to know more?

Here are some other websites about pregnancy and birth control that we liked:

Planned Parenthood

Center for Young Women’s Health

Heart Disease and Pregnancy