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International experts tackle a growing cause of deaths in pregnancy

13 February 2006

More than 125,000 women in the UK with congenital heart disease (CHD) are at significant risk of dying during pregnancy, highlights a new report today by a team of leading heart and pregnancy doctors at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust and Chelsea & Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust.

More than 125,000 women in the UK with congenital heart disease (CHD) are at significant risk of dying during pregnancy, highlights a new report today by a team of leading heart and pregnancy doctors at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust and Chelsea & Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust. Today in the UK, heart disease is a leading cause of death during pregnancy and childbirth. Over the next three days world-leading experts in obstetrics and CHD will meet at an international conference in London on Cardiac Disease in Pregnancy, to warn of the dangers to pregnant mothers and the need for urgent action.

Improvements in medical and surgical treatment over the last few decades have led to more than 85 per cent of the one in 100 babies born with heart disease surviving into adulthood . In the UK over 6,000 children are born with heart disease every year, however there is still no long-term cure. The majority of adult patients with CHD are not aware of the need for continuous specialist care, and when women become pregnant they are at significant increased risk.

“Mothers with CHD are, on average, 100 times more likely to die during pregnancy than other pregnant women. Pregnancy is fraught with potential difficulties for women with CHD, especially if there are complications. If untreated, these can lead to a heart attack, stroke, flooding of the lungs and in some cases, sadly death,” says co-author of the report Michael Gatzoulis, Professor of Cardiology and Adult Congenital Heart Disease at Royal Brompton Hospital.

During the international conference world experts in obstetrics and CHD will be making recommendations for long-term investment to train more professionals in the area of congenital heart disease and to raise awareness about the risks of CHD during pregnancy. Philip Steer, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Chelsea & Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust said, “We need to ensure mothers with CHD receive appropriate advice and counselling about the risks they face – even before they become pregnant. When pregnant it’s essential they have specialist care, especially antenatally and in labour, and they need good after care too. If they don’t get the care they deserve, sadly some women will continue to die needlessly.”

The new report Pregnancy and congenital heart disease – From pre-conception to postpartum is published online today on www.bmj.com. Its recommendations to improve the care of women with CHD who wish to have a baby include; counselling about contraception so that any pregnancies can be planned appropriately; the provision of ‘joined-up’ care for mothers from specialist cardiologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists properly trained and experienced in the care of women with CHD; guidance around fetal abnormalities of the unborn child and continuous antenatal and postnatal care.

A multi-disciplinary team of experts at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust and Chelsea & Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust run a dedicated joint service for women with congenital heart disease.

Notes to Editors:

Please contact Lucy Hamilton, Media Relations Manager at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust for further information and a copy of the new report published today on www.bmj.com

For interviews with Professor Gatzoulis and CHD mother Ghosia Mir, please contact Lucy Hamilton, Media Relations Manager at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust on 020 7351 8672 or 07866 536345.

For interviews with Professor Steer please contact Matthew Akid, Head of Communications at Chelsea & Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust on 020 3315 6828 or 07766 594708 or out-of-hours on pager 07659 125409.

Pregnancy and congenital heart disease – From pre-conception to postpartum, is published in the British Medical Journal. The team of authors includes: Michael Gatzoulis, Professor of Cardiology and Adult Congenital Heart Disease and Anselm Uebing, Fellow in Adult Congenital Heart Disease at Royal Brompton Hospital, Philip Steer, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Steve Yentis, Consultant Anaesthetist at Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is holding a closed study group on Cardiac Disease in Pregnancy on 13th-15th February and an open follow-up meeting on Cardiac Disease in Pregnancy is scheduled for 3rd November. For further information on both meetings please contact the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Conference Office on 020 7772 6245.

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