Black Women at Higher Heart Risk During Pregnancy

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Although heart problems are rare complications of pregnancy, Black women face a heightened risk — even if they have comfortable incomes and health insurance, a new study finds.

It’s well established that the United States has a higher maternal mortality rate than other wealthy nations, and Black women are at greater risk than white women.

Less has been known about whether Black women are specifically at higher risk of cardiovascular problems related to pregnancy. Those complications — while rare– include serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, blood clots in the lungs and cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle.

The new study shows that, indeed, Black women are disproportionately affected.

The absolute numbers are small, and individual women should not be alarmed, said senior researcher Dr. Samir Kapadia, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Pregnancy is still extremely safe,” he said.

But, Kapadia added, it’s important to know where racial disparities exist, and to try to figure out why.

“The part that’s a bit surprising,” he said, “is that socioeconomic factors did not explain it.”

Even when researchers compared Black women of relatively high incomes with low-income white women, Black women still had higher risks of heart attack, stroke and blood clots.

The findings were similar when Black women with private health insurance were compared with uninsured white women.

But while the reasons for the disparity are not nailed down, doctors need to be aware of it, Kapadia said.

In general, he said, women who develop cardiovascular complications during or after pregnancy have warning signs prior. They include gestational (pregnancy-related) high blood pressure and diabetes, and preeclampsia — a complication marked by elevated blood pressure and signs of damage to organs such as the kidneys or liver.

Women with those conditions need to see their doctor regularly after giving birth, according to Kapadia. But as new moms become focused on their newborns, their own health care may fall by the wayside.

“We have to pay attention to mothers’ health, too,” Kapadia said.

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