It's never too late for an expectant mom to adopt healthy habits for her baby and herself.
The American Heart Association (AHA) offers some heart-healthy tips.
"Pregnancy is often a pivotal time in a woman's life from both short- and long-term perspectives," said Dr. Michelle Albert, volunteer president of the American Heart Association.
"For some, it may be their first experience with a major medical condition, for most, it's a natural time to be more forward-thinking about their own health, as well as that of their baby," Albert said in an association news release.
Poor heart health puts both mothers-to-be and their children at risk, according to the AHA.
Heart disease causes 26.5% of pregnancy-related deaths, according to the AHA's Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2022 Update. That makes it the leading cause of pregnancy-related death.
A 2022 study found that only about 40% of women in the United States who gave birth had good heart health before pregnancy. Excess weight was the major driver of poor pre-pregnancy health, according to the AHA.
"Getting regular prenatal care as well as post-pregnancy cardiovascular risk factor management, if appropriate, along with making healthy lifestyle changes can improve the pregnancy and birth experience," Albert said. "Just as importantly, taking these steps may lead to a longer, healthier life for mom and baby."
AHA said health care providers can make a difference by paying close attention to a woman's heart health during pregnancy and promoting lifestyle changes.
If their mothers have good heart health during pregnancy, children are more likely to have the same, AHA said.
"The role of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy cannot be emphasized enough," Albert said. "Healthy diet, moderate exercise including walking, smoking cessation and other healthy behaviors are important tools for a healthy pregnancy for both mother and child."
When pregnant women have heart-related problems, they should work closely with their doctor to monitor their health and take all prescriptions as prescribed, the AHA advised.
"There is still much to learn about the special risks of maternal and infant health related to cardiovascular health," Albert said. "This is an area the American Heart Association continues to follow closely, devoting research dollars and other resources to ensuring the healthiest outcomes for parents and babies throughout their lifetime."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on having a healthy pregnancy.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Jan. 13, 2023