Women with pre-existing cardiovascular problems are likely to suffer from angina pectoris during pregnancy. Given below is some information on the risk factors and treatment options for angina pectoris in pregnant women.
Angina pectoris refers to a squeezing pain in the chest that arises due to the poor supply of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. Those who suffer from coronary heart disease or coronary artery spasms, are more likely to suffer from angina. Unhealthy eating habits, smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol are some of the risk factors for angina pectoris. Though incidence of angina pectoris is not high in pregnant women, women who have already been diagnosed with coronary heart disease are at an increased risk of suffering from angina pectoris during pregnancy. In this article, we will find out more about the circumstances under which pregnant women may suffer from angina along with the ways of dealing with angina during pregnancy.
What Causes Angina Pectoris?
Angina pectoris is categorized into stable angina, unstable angina and variant angina. Stable angina is the most common form of angina that occurs as a result of exertion. On the other hand, unstable angina is a sharp and sudden chest pain, which may occur anytime, irrespective of the levels of physical activity one may indulge in. Such a chest pain may occur while one is resting. Variant angina is another form of angina that may occur while one is sleeping or resting. Though variant angina may resolve with the help of drugs, unstable angina can be a precursor to myocardial infarction (heart attack). As mentioned earlier, coronary artery disease and coronary artery spasms are the most common causes of angina. Coronary artery disease is a serious ailment that is characterized by the accumulation of cholesterol plaque on the walls of the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. The accumulation of plaque may lead to the narrowing of the arteries, which in turn, has an adverse effect on the flow of blood. As the arteries are no longer able to supply adequate amount of blood to the heart muscle, one experiences chest pain, especially during the time when the oxygen demand is more.
Angina Pectoris in Women
Heart disease could be congenital or acquired. Many times, congenital heart condition may not be diagnosed early in life. Thus, if a woman experiences recurring episodes of chest pain, she must get a thorough medical checkup done, especially before trying to conceive. It would be best to resolve any such ailment as it can have an adverse effect during pregnancy. Women who are of childbearing age must also refrain from smoking. Those who indulge in smoking are definitely at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular ailments. Besides unhealthy eating habits and smoking, factors such as age and genetic predisposition may also put women at an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease. A coronary heart disease may present itself in the form of angina pectoris in the initial stages. Women who are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease at an early age, need to be extremely careful during the course of pregnancy.
Effects of Angina Pectoris on Pregnancy
When a woman is pregnant, the organs of the circulatory system of the body have to work harder in order to meet the demands of an increased blood volume. The heart needs to work harder as the myocardial oxygen consumption is greater. However, the oxygen needs of the myocardium may not be met by the coronary blood flow in women diagnosed with coronary artery disease, which is why, such women are more likely to experience angina pectoris during pregnancy. Chest pain may also be experienced by women who take beta adrenergic drugs for the treatment of premature labor during the course of pregnancy. Angina pectoris is often viewed as a warning signal for heart attack and it is extremely essential that a thorough medical checkup be conducted at the earliest. Though incidence of cardiovascular disease is not very high in pregnant women, there’s a need to make sure that any condition that may alter the balance of demand and supply of myocardial oxygen, is corrected. Anxiety or high levels of physical activity may aggravate the condition, and thus, steps should be taken to avoid any activity that may complicate matters. Under normal circumstances, drug therapy involving the use of calcium channel blockers, beta blockers or nitroglycerin may be recommended for treating angina in women, however, doctors exercise caution while prescribing drugs for pregnant women. They have to assess the effect of drugs on the fetus as well as the expectant mother. In severe cases of coronary heart disease where there is considerable blockage in the arteries, pregnancy may have to be terminated and surgery may be performed to clear the clogged arteries. It is therefore essential that pregnant women inform the doctors regarding episodes of chest pain. Since smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for acquired coronary artery disease, women must refrain from smoking at all costs.
Chest pain that a woman may experience during the course of pregnancy may not always be angina pectoris. Chest pains that resemble angina may actually be attributed to acid reflux or gastrointestinal problems. However, the incidence of cardiovascular ailments in women is becoming high due to poor lifestyle choices. Thus, it is in one’s best interest to refrain from smoking or indulging in excessive consumption of alcohol. Women must lead a healthy life so as to be able to give birth to a healthy child.