Talking about Heart Health and Pregnancy on Capitol Hill

Heart disease can impact women before, during and after pregnancy, and it is the number one cause of maternal mortality. As Congress advances legislation to address the rising rate of maternal mortality in the United States, and specifically the disparities in maternal health outcomes for African-American women, it is important that policymakers understand the impact of heart disease on maternal health.

That’s why WomenHeart partnered with the American Heart Association to host a briefing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2020 on “Heart Health and Pregnancy.” Moderated by WomenHeart CEO Celina Gorre, the panel started with U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) speaking about her legislation, the MOMMA’s Act, that recognizes heart disease among the “predominant medical causes of maternal-related deaths and complications.” She also advocated for her Helping MOMS Act, which – much like the MOMMA’s Act – provides states the option to extend Medicaid coverage for women postpartum up to twelve months (as opposed to the current requirement of 60 days). You can take action now to ask your representative to support the Helping MOMS Act.

WomenHeart Champion Cecily Foster from Virginia Beach told her story of experiencing cardiomyopathy soon after delivering her daughter. She spoke of the mental health impact of such a diagnosis, including feelings of isolation and depression, and the years-long process of recovering her physical health while also parenting a young child.

Dr. Gary Gibbons, Director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), spoke about the research his Institute is funding aimed at identifying early risk factors of heart disease for women of  reproductive age; novel interventions for preeclampsia; pre- and postnatal weight management; and improving implementation of evidence-based care.

Dr. Manisha Gandhi, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist representing the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), spoke about guidelines released by ACOG to help providers caring for pregnant women understand the risks of heart conditions and how to treat them. She also talked about the creation of “pregnancy heart teams” of providers – cardiologists, obstetricians and other specialists working together to care for patients with heart disease before and during pregnancy.

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