Atherosclerosis is a condition that can affect all of the vessels in your body, including those that supply blood to your uterus. Below is more about pregnant women and atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition that affects the arteries, and it can be hazardous for both mom and baby during pregnancy. If you have atherosclerosis, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about how best to manage the condition. Here are some things you need to know about the condition and pregnancy.
What Is Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is a condition that affects the arteries, and it can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or other severe cardiovascular problems. It happens when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol and other substances that create a thick “jelly” inside the wall of an artery. If clots form, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The buildup of plaque can restrict blood flow through the arteries, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood through. This can lead to heart problems, including angina, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrest.
How to Diagnose Atherosclerosis
Your doctor may be able to diagnose the condition with an exam and blood tests, but you may need more testing. Some doctors use a test known as an angiogram to see how much plaque is blocking your arteries. If this test shows problems with the arteries in your heart, brain or legs, it may indicate the presence of the disease.
How to Treat Atherosclerosis During Pregnancy
There are various treatment options for the disease, depending on how severe the symptoms are.
Some people have success controlling the disease with diet. Your doctor may recommend eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet to reduce plaque buildup in your arteries. You should also avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates, leading to high blood sugar levels.
People with the condition who smoke or use other tobacco products may want to quit before getting pregnant. If you continue smoking during pregnancy, it will increase your risk of placental abruption, low birth weight and preterm delivery.
The most common drugs used to treat the condition are antiplatelet drugs, which keep platelets from building up and forming blood clots at sites of plaque buildup. A doctor may prescribe aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix) or ticlopidine (Ticlid).
If dietary changes and antiplatelet drugs don’t work, your doctor might suggest other types of medications to keep your blood flowing freely through your arteries. These medications are known as statins.
How Should Pregnant Women Deal With Atherosclerosis?
Pregnant women should consider several ways that the condition can be managed.
Women with the condition should follow a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and healthy lifestyle choices. This includes eating certain foods—such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables—to help reduce plaque buildup in the arteries. It also means getting plenty of exercise, avoiding alcohol, and staying at a healthy weight.
Your doctor may recommend taking a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, as it has been linked to healthy fetal development. It’s also important to get regular check-ups throughout your pregnancy, as high blood pressure and diabetes can worsen the condition.
High blood pressure can make the condition worse, as it puts extra stress on the heart and increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s important to control high blood pressure before and during pregnancy. It’s also a good idea for women to keep their blood pressure under control after giving birth
For pregnant women with high blood pressure, careful monitoring of the fetus may be necessary. Your doctor will want to keep a close watch on your fetus’ weight, which can indicate that blood flow through the placenta is restricted. It’s essential to maintain regular prenatal appointments so you can work with your doctor to control your blood pressure and avoid preterm delivery or other problems.
The condition can make your body more prone to injury and stress, worsening plaque buildup in your arteries and heart. The best way to avoid damage and stress is to take care of yourself and get regular exercise. Do this by eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting plenty of rest.
Atherosclerosis is a serious but treatable condition. The good news is that you can reduce your risk by making smart lifestyle choices and controlling potentially harmful conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Pregnant women should be proactive about controlling their health, so talk to your doctor if you have questions about the condition.