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Women born with congenital heart disease (CHD) are more likely to have been born preterm or small-for-gestational age (SGA), and are more likely to have children suffering from both problems, according to a large population-based register study1 published recently in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica – journal of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Authors led by Dr Ann Josefsson, Linköping University, Sweden, studied 500,245 women born in 1973–1983 who were alive and living in Sweden at 13 years of age.  2,216 women diagnosed with CHD were compared with 492,476 women without. A total of 188,867 mother-firstborn-offspring pairs were identified and available for analysis.

In previous research, data from women with CHD have been grouped together with women who were born with healthy hearts, but developed heart disease during their lives. As a result it has been difficult to determine the influence of CHD on a woman’s offspring.  Professor Josefsson said the study was “the first time anyone has used data from a large national cohort to compare mothers with CHD with all other women”.

The study’s authors found that women with CHD are more likely to have been born preterm or SGA, and themselves to give birth to children preterm, SGA and with congenital abnormalities compared with women without CHD.  They recommend that such factors should be used to advise women with CHD about pregnancy.

Antenatal health care in collaboration with specialists in obstetrics, cardiology and anesthesiology should be provided to minimise the risks during pregnancy and delivery, though Professor Josefsson asserts that these women should not be discouraged from seeking to have children. “But they should be offered prenatal diagnostics as there is an increased risk for congenital abnormalities and multiprofessional antenatal care,” she says.


1 Josefsson et al. Reproductive patterns and pregnancy outcomes in women with congenital heart disease – a Swedish population-based study. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 2011; doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0412.2011.01100.x

Published on: May 6, 2011

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