5 Tips to Surviving the Cardiologist while Pregnant

Hearing the words "high risk pregnancy" can wreck a momma's heart.  Our job is to keep our body healthy so we can nourish and keep our baby safe.  We don't have to worry about diapers, breastfeeding, and everything that comes with a newborn. It feels a bit like defeat when you find out the one thing you are supposed to take care of, may harm your baby, no matter what you try.

A part of me felt like a failure when I first met with my high risk team.  Tyler and I had educated ourselves of the possible negative outcomes of being pregnant, but hearing it straight from a doctor turned it into a reality.

I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve and currently experience moderate to severe stenosis and regurgitation. My heart has to work hard to push blood through my heart just to oxygenate my own body.  When you are pregnant, your blood levels increase to help provide the necessary nutrients and oxygen to the baby.  Combining the two means my heart is working at marathon levels when at rest.

Prematurity, congenital heart defect, growth restrictions, and heart failure were our main concerns about pregnancy. We've been very blessed not having to face those complications and to live a very asymptotic life.  Part of my peace comes from having visited the doctor's so often throughout my life. I have learned my limitations, know how to advocate for myself, and understand what will happen during my doctor's appointments. 

But for some momma's heart conditions arise due to pregnancy or they find they have a heart condition during pregnancy.  It can be scary going to the doctor for an alternative health problem, especially while pregnant. I've put together 5 quick tips to surviving and conquering the cardiologist while pregnant.  

1. Make a list of all your concerns and questions

It's your body and it's your right to know exactly what is going on.  I keep a journal on me at all times to write down questions that pop up in the middle of the day, make a note of a symptom (high pulse rate, trouble breathing, etc.) I write down what I was doing, how I felt, and how long it lasted.  The best thing you can do for yourself is become educated about your heart.  

Ask your doctor to explain exactly how your condition affects your heart.  Ask him or her to show you on the numerous heart models in the office exactly where your heart condition is located. What are some of the things you can keep a look out for? How do you keep yourself in best health? What will your heart condition look like in 5 or 10 years?

Don't be afraid to have a long conversation with your doctor. There have been many times I've sat with the doctor and had him reexplain what my heart condition was. Ask your doctor about his perspective about your heart condition, educate yourself on various treatments, and see if his perspectives line up with your own desires for health. 

Your health team is exactly that, a team, and you are the most important member of that team.  Don't hesitate to contact them when needed!

2. Pack snacks, a water bottle, a book, and wet wipes

Cardiologist appointments are usually lengthy.  When you are pregnant they take even longer, go figure! Pack snacks, a water bottle, and a book.  Waiting is a part of pregnancy, but when it comes to waiting to eat, it's not too enjoyable. I typically pack crackers, some fruit, and granola bars in my purse for when we are waiting, and I promise whoever you bring with you will thank you for the snacks as well ;) 

Wet wipes might seem a bit odd to bring to a cardiologist, but I promise you they are the first things I typically use! Echocardiograms are essentially ultrasounds on your heart, which means you get to experience the same jelly you do when you are checking up on baby.  The jelly makes me feel sticky and while the sonographer will give you a wash cloth to clean yourself, the wet wipes are quick and easy.  Plus when you miss a spot, you have something on hand to get it! 

3. Bring a support person

Even if it's just a check up, it's nice to have someone to drive you and keep you company.  Whenever I have gone on my own, my blood pressure shot straight through the roof and I had to spend a good amount of time explaining that Nashville traffic was the reason for my high numbers.  

Since we don't have family where we live, my husband comes with me to all of our appointments. It is so nice because even if we do face some hard-to-hear news, I know I can handle it with him there.  His words of compassion and love on the car ride home typically override any worries I have after appointments. 

4. Listen to inspirational music

Music always puts me in a good mood, so make sure you pack your iPod full of good tunes for the drive to the doctor's office. We live about an hour away from our doctor's, but when I was younger, my mother would travel 4-6 hours to the cardiologist. Having a good playlist put our spirits high and made appointments a fun road trip!

And when I say inspirational, pick what is inspirational to you! Some days I want to listen to good ol' Nelly and Baby Bash and other days I'd rather turn into K-Love.  Just pick some tunes that put you in a good mood and bring positivity into the trip.

5. Wear comfy clothes

This is probably an every day event if you're pregnant, but comfy work out clothes are the best for any stress tests, echoes, and blood tests that may be done.  You'll spend a lot of your day taking off and putting your shirt back on. For my third trimester appointment, I found yoga pants and a t-shirt to be the comfiest and easiest to take on/off.

Bring a change of clothes if you don't like wearing work out clothes in public.  My husband typically treats me to a nice dinner afterwards and sometimes I'll pack an extra set of clothes just in case I want to change before going to eat.  Plus its a nice to reward yourself after a hard day!

When is your cardiologist appointment? What do you plan on bringing?