At last, after possibly the longest January on record, it is now February. Traditionally in Ireland, it is the first day of Spring but it is a chilly start to the season! February is a month filled with hearts, flowers and chocolate – three of my favourite things – but February is also a reminder that, as women, it’s never too early or too late to start thinking (and taking action) about heart health.
Why does Heart Health matter for women during Pregnancy?
So, I’m just back from teaching at CSM, the annual conference of the American Physical Therapy Association (picture the scene: over 17,000 physios!!!) I presented a deep dive into Endometriosis (more about that in upcoming posts) but one of the perks of presenting a pre-con masterclass is that I got to sit back and listen and learn for the rest of the conference. I particularly enjoyed two sessions on Pregnancy, Childbirth and Postpartum Health, which was co-presented by two of my learned colleagues Susan Clinton (you can catch her at Woman on Fire) and Jessica McKinney, alongside a uro-gynae and a nurse midwife from the University of Michigan Pelvic Floor Research Group
Now, if you’ve seen (survived?!) me teaching, you’ll know that one of the many things I like to talk about, is the importance of women becoming better versed in heart health, especially at midlife…and yes, there will be more about menopausal heart health during this month
Did you know that heart health during pregnancy is also a key indicator of morbidity and even mortality? As healthcare pro’s working with women during the perinatal year, we know to watch out for the signs of pre-eclampsia, that potentially life threatening condition.
Did you know that high blood pressure in pregnancy increases the future risk of hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease and premature death?
Do you know what the non-modifiable risk factors of cardiovascular disease are? Apart from age and race, we should also consider pre-existing diabetes or hypertension, a family history of heart disease, being primiparous or carrying multiples?
Do you know what we can affect? Monitoring BMI and weight gain, asking about anaemia and blood pressure and educating women about their own health and wellbeing
Do you know the signs and symptoms to screen for at every visit? (Hint: the key signs of pre-eclampsia are protein in the urine and high blood pressure, but I think its always wise to ask about blurred vision or headaches, new onset swelling, especially in the hands and feet, a feeling of nausea/general unwellness/ vomiting, abdominal pain or changed urinary output) Pregnancy is, I think, not a time to take chances, so it is better to be over cautious than under cautious when it comes to hypertension/ pre-eclampsia…call the doctor!
Interestingly, Jessica talked about the potential role of ‘postpartum cardiac rehab’ which, to be honest, makes perfect sense, even if I had never heard of the concept before, but its certainly one I’ll be giving thought to in the future, especially when we remember that cardiovascular disease is the No.1 killer of women. Because it is harder to detect, and because we don’t respond as well to the ‘standard’ treatment…and because, for too many women, their first sign of heart disease is a fatal heart attack…
There’s so much evidence showing what does work in terms of optimising heart health in women, and I will be writing more about that this month, but I thought this was an issue that may be under the radar for a lot of pro’s working with pregnant and postnatal women
As always, Knowledge is Power. (Actually, knowledge put into action is power, but you know what I mean!)
So, for further information on Women and Heart Health:
Later this month, I’ll be doing a podcast on Women and Heart Health with Beth Learn and Chris Behnke, on Fit2B radio (yes, they were brave enough to invite me back for a third (!) podcast) You can catch my previous two podcasts with them here (The One About Constipation) and here (The One About Rubber Chickens)
I’ll be weaving in heart health into my presentations at Woman on Fire in the UK in April, especially when I talk about Women and Back Pain and Women and Cancer Recovery (you can also see Susan Clinton present there on Breath/Pelvic Health and Bowel Health/Athletes AND Beth Learn will be presenting on Diastasis and Raising Strong Girls
If you want to take a deep dive into working with women in their Perinatal Year, may I recommend the online course that I had the pleasure of co-creating with Jenny Burrell and Sofie Jacobs, the Pregnancy Wellness Certification? It goes all the way from fertility and conception to pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal recovery to return to sport – as well as a module on running a successful pregnancy and postnatal business. Come and join the conversation!
Until next time
Onwards and Upwards