Expectant mothers have a lot on their minds. A baby presents a world of possibilities for families, especially if this is a parent’s first child. Proper preparation will not only make it easier for parents to adjust to their new family dynamic but can improve the health of both the baby and the mother.

Cardiologist Dr. Laxmi Mehta at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center agrees. Since 1987, pregnancy-related death rates have doubled. In conjunction with the American Heart Association, Dr. Metha chaired a statement attributing these trends to cardiovascular disease.

The leading cause of death in the United States

The leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease accounts for more than half a million deaths every year. Alongside pre-existing conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, these increasing pregnancy death rates drive Dr. Mehta’s work. Her cardio-obstetrics team developed a comprehensive strategy to address heart disease among mothers before, during and after pregnancy. Called “preconception counseling,” the team designed these treatments to help women with pre-existing conditions, including preeclampsia.

Pregnancy puts a lot of stress on the body, primarily the heart. During the first trimester, a mother’s heart rate increases while her blood pressure decreases. In the second and third trimesters, both the heart rate and blood pressure rise and won’t come back down until after the birth of the baby. Having a baby also increases a mother’s chance of developing cardiovascular diseases later in life — women who develop preeclampsia have a 71% increased risk of cardiovascular death and four times more likely to experience heart failure.

Dr. Mehta hopes her work can increase awareness around this issue and help more women seek cardiological care before, during and after pregnancy. Expecting parents can speak with their doctor about the potential risks.

Consult with an attorney on malpractice claims

Those currently enduring pregnancy complications due to cardiovascular disease may want to consult with a local attorney to evaluate a potential legal claim. A lawyer familiar with medical malpractice can answer any questions and offer advice for moving forward.