Too many women dying from heart diseases in pregnancy

15th December 2016

Too many women are dying from heart diseases, including cardiomyopathy, in pregnancy or soon after giving birth because doctors miss symptoms, says a new audit.

Heart disease is the largest single cause of women dying in pregnancy or up to six weeks after giving birth, says the report looking at maternal deaths in the UK from 2012 to 2014.

These deaths include the different types of cardiomyopathy, and peripartum cardiomyopathy brought on by the pregnancy itself.

Just over eight women in every 100,000 die, two of whom have heart disease.  The report’s key messages are:

  • Severe chest pain spreading to the left arm or back may be heart related
  • Persistent breathlessness when lying flat is not normal in pregnancy and may mean heart problems
  • Good care can make a difference
  • Women with known heart disease should get specialist care

The report, from the Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme, says care for women with many other issues has improved but death rates from heart disease has increased.

  The authors say there were many instances when women displayed clear symptoms and signs of heart disease which were not recognised. This may be because the medical profession does not consider heart disease while looking after a young pregnant woman.

The audit aims to promote quality improvement in care and is funded by NHS England and other national health care organisations.

Cardiomyopathy UK has organised and contributed to medical conferences to improve expertise in the medical profession around cardiomyopathy and pregnancy.