Melinda Gets Pregnant With A Bicuspid Valve & Aneurysm

Over the past few months, several patients have written-in about pregnancy, child birth, heart valve disease and the complex issue of… surgery timing.

In fact, this morning I received an exciting email about Melinda, her new husband, her bicuspid aortic valve and her pregnancy. I thought you might enjoy reading about Melinda’s approach to having a baby before before heart valve replacement surgery.  Here is what she writes:

Adam,

I was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve about 21 years ago. I’m now 39 years old and I’m 6 weeks pregnant!!!

I have been having semi-annual check ups with my cardiologist for about 4 or 5 years now. The cardiologist has been monitoring me closely so that the timing of my replacement surgery is as best as it can be.

After the cardiologist read my most recent echocardiogram he was concerned so he sent me for a TEE. The results of both tests concluded that my time was coming near (as in the next 18 to 24 months).  During our conversation, the possibility of having a baby came up. I just got married in May and my husband and I wanted to get started on a family, given that we are both 39.

Fortunately, my cardiologist was agreeable to me getting pregnant. He said that if we’re going to try to get pregnant then it should be soon. So, fortunately on the first try, we got lucky!

My doctor says that I should do fine throughout the pregnancy, but soon after the baby is born, I have to have my aortic valve replaced along with a portion of my aorta, as it is slightly enlarged (4.2 cm). I recently visited with a cardiothoracic surgeon who will most likely perform my surgery.


Melinda’s Baby: 6-Week Ultrasound

The surgeon agreed that at my current state, I should do fine through my pregnancy. Today, my husband and I went for our first prenatal appointment. The OBGYN was more concerned about my high-risk pregnancy than either of the two cardiac specialists.

I’m already a high risk case because of my age. The bicuspid valve just escalates my risk. I’m a trooper though. I’m confident I’ll do just fine with the team of doctors I have working with me. Other than my defective heart valve, I am a picture of good health. I don’t smoke, I’m not overweight, I’m very active (I was running 4 miles about 4 times a week, but the doctor said no more to that… only walking from here on out).

I tell you all of this because I thought you might find my story rather interesting. I’ve been following your blog for over a year now. I’ve never posted anything… I just really enjoy reading what is going on with everyone else in the world of heart valve surgery.

I really appreciate the work you do and I hope that you will continue. Your site has really helped me sort out some of the decisions that I have to make about my surgery.  It has also made me feel at ease knowing that there are so many success stories out there.

I’ll be happy to share my experience with you throughout my pregnancy and surgery.  I don’t think there are too many of us heart valve patients getting pregnant with heart valve replacement surgery in the near future.  Let’s assume that my story will have a happy ending and this might help others.

Your friend,

Melinda
Tampa, Florida

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Sean R.

    Melinda,
    That is a great story! Please do keep us up-to-date on what happens! Could you name your child something related to your surgery?… how about Aorta for a girl and Bicuspid for a boy? Haha! Keep up the exercise – walking should be about as good as running. I wonder if you’ve thought about how long you want to wait between delivery and heart surgery… you want to be strong for the surgery, and you want to have things kind of settled down and in a routine with the baby, so perhaps a little bit of time in between would be good. And please take time to research tissue vs mechanical valves so you can make the best decision for your particular future. Best of luck; and again, please let us know everything!
    Sean

  • keesha l. williams

    Hi

    I have mitral valve prolapse and I was supposed to get married in the fall 09. I had an echocardigram done and my mvp has gotten worse. The md stated that I need to have my valve repaired and I am in my 30’s and I want to have more children this news was unexpected and a little scarey.

    kw

  • Leticia Creasey

    Melinda, I too have a bi-cuspid aortic heart valve. I see my cardiologist every year. My murmur gets louder each year. I am due to see him next month. I just want to give you some words of encouragement by telling you that I have 3 children and had my last one at age 40, three years ago. I’m glad you are sharing your story. You are not alone. Best wishes. Leticia

  • Sara

    Melinda – thanks so much for your posting! I too am just following this blog, however I’m in a similar situation to you and will be needing a portion of my aorta replaced (it’s also enlarged) and my valve repaired – however this is prior to surgery. I definitely want to follow your experience and get any thoughts/advice that you may have. Thanks for sharing your story and congrats on the baby! I will keep you in my thoughts!

  • Denise C

    Melinda:
    Congrats on your marriage and pregnancy! I just had my bicuspid aortic valve replaced and part of my aorta, too! I chose the Medtronic porcine valve. All my follow ups say it is doing well. My aneurysm was 4.2cm, also. I’m about 7.5 weeks out from surgery and am doing well. I teach school, and will be returning in another month. My surgeon preferred for me to wait until 3 months after surgery to return to work. Good luck and I’ll be watching for your postings.
    Denise

  • Fran

    Melinda, best of luck to you. Where do you plan to have your valve surgery done? I live in SW Florida and am not sure yet where I’ll go. Thanks

  • Fran,

    Not sure if you have checked our Heart Valve Surgeon Database yet. But it might help you locate a surgeon in Florida. Here is the link:

    http://www.heart-valve-surgery.com/surgeon-database/home.php

    Keep on tickin!

    Adam

  • Elaine

    Hi Melinda,
    That story really put a smile on my face. I had mitral valve repair surgery 2 months ago – just shy of my 32nd birthday. I would love to have a family in the next few years and think that your experience could dispel a lot of fears that women have about pregnancy and valve surgery. 🙂
    Best wishes,
    Elaine

  • Cheri Blanchard

    Melinda,
    You will do great! Stay positive! I too, have aortic valve issues and may be facing another heart surgery soon. I had my first surgery at 11 years of age and the second about a year and a half ago at the Mayo Clinic (I am now 32 years old). I had sub-aortic stenosis, which they removed, but the valve is now regurgitating more and causing some problems. I have two little girls, whom I had prior to my second surgery. I, like you, am a very active person and had to take precautions during both of my pregnancies and delivered both by planned c-sections. Try to keep up healthy eating and exercising within your limits and your pregnancy and delivery will go much more smoothly.
    I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you the best. Heart surgery is definitely not the end of the road. Just a little detour in life. I am actually thankful for the experience. It’s amazing how little you take for granted after such an experience!
    Best Wishes,
    Cheri

  • jeff stoveken

    when i first joined this blog i was surprised to hear how many people like myself needed this surgery and all the similar anuerysms and valve problems,im 46 years old. now i cant believe all these women in their 30s needing it too !until youve researched it, you feel like how did this happen to me? then you realize its common and easily(so to speak) repaired! good luck to all! this is my one year anniv. of them finding my aneurysm.im happy to be alive today!!!!!!!! thanks jeff jeffstoveken@yahoo.com

  • Kimberly

    Melinda,

    I just wanted to let you know that your story touched me. I’m 28 yrs old, and just got married this last April, 2009. My husband Mike and I are starting to think about having a baby soon, and it’s been a big decision as I have had 3 open heart surgeries due to congential coarctation of the aorta, and anticipate having my AV replaced at some point in my life. Hope all is well and the pregnancy went (or is going well), your story was inspiring~

  • jeff stoveken

    my wife’s cousin had open heart surgeries too and her doctors advised her not to get pregnant. im not sure if maybe her being on coumadin played a role in that? by the way, kimberly,why so many surgeries? jeff jeffstoveken@yahoo.com

  • Jennifer

    i have sub-aortic stenosis in 22 years old and im scared me and my fiance’ are now going to start trying to have a baby , but to my disadvantage i have no insurance , there for i cannot get check by a cardiologist , how did your pregnancy turn out? did you have to have surgery right after? hows the baby? oh and congrats on marriage!

    i would greatly appreciate a responce, i thought i was alone with this

  • Sarah

    Hey Melinda
    I was just wondering how everything is going with you and your pregnancy. I too was in your situation. I was born with aortic stenosis and at the age of 14 I had my aorta repaired. I am now 28 and just had my second child 6 weeks ago! I was told after having my first child in 7/30/09 (yes my kids are 13 mos apart!!) that I needed my valve replaced soon so I could either have my valve replaced at that time or if I wanted more children that I had to start trying right away. Both my pregnancies went well….although I did have to be on lasix for both pregnancies. My obgyns also were far more conerned with my condition than my cardioilogist was. So now six weeks later I am having my aortic valve replaced in two days!!!

  • Rose M.

    Hi Melinda,
    I am post Ross procdure and during my pregnancies I was followed by my cardiologist and OB more often than usual. I have 2 children, 4 & 8. I am now 38. I found out about my condition when I was 18 and was told by my 1st cardiologist that I would have to have all my children by 28y.o. I did not feel comfortable with that, so I went to seek a second opinion. I stayed with my 2nd cardiologist till today. I agree with Adam, that everyone is different. Your body/symptoms and data collected will let you know when it is really time to have your surgery. GOOD LUCK with your pregnancy/pregnancies.

  • Rebecca

    Sarah,

    I too have two small children ages 4 and 9 weeks – I am having my aortic valve replaced on Oct 14. I am glad that there is another young mother out there like me dealing with this. I am concerned about lifting my baby afterwards and how long it might take before I am comfortable bathing him etc. Dr. says I will have no restrictions after 6 weeks, but that is an awfully long time in my book. Praying that your sugery goes well!

  • Sarah

    Rebecca-

    My surgery went ok….although ten days later I am still in the hospital due to some post surg complications. The worst part of it all is that I am not able to see/hold my children. My md told me that I too will have lifting restrictions but she said I could feed my baby if someone puts them in my arms and I have plenty of arm support with pillows. Praying your surgery goes well too!!!!

  • lisa

    I am a 26 years old and I have had 5 heart surgeries a balloon catheterization a steins, 2 mitral valve repairs and then in 2003 they ended up replacing my mitral valve with the st. Jude valve my husband and I have been together for seven years and would love nothing more than to start a family of our own. Is there hope for us to have a normal healthy baby? my cardiologist said it would be OK to have kids. He was a pediatric cardiologist I have seen for the last 22 years until this year when he said he can’t see me anymore because I am to old. LOL! so now I am stuck with all these questions and looking for a new doctor Its all kinda scary. does anyone have a success story that might give me some hope

  • Gina

    I am 32 years-old and was born with bicuspid aortic valve stenosis. I had a balloon valvotomoy when I was just five years-old. As a teenager I was told by doctors that I would probably need valve replacement sometime in my forties. I had my first baby three years ago I tolerated my first pregnancy very well with a planned c-section, however I developed a heart arythmia during the pregnancy. I am still taking a beta-blocker to control it today. I just found out that I’m pregnancy again. I am excited, but very, very nervous. I am happy to hear that there are other women out there experiencing similar issues because I usually feel like I’m the only one.

  • Linda

    Hi Melinda,

    Hope things are going well for you. I also live in Tampa, Fl. and I was looking for a good cardiologist who works with patients that have congenital biscuspid valve stenosis. Who is your cardiologist and I think you mentioned you had a surgeon in mind and where is he located? It is important to have a doctor you can talk to. Linda

  • Mandy

    Hi Melinda,

    RE: Female with Moderate Aortic Stenosis who wishes to get pregnant!

    I am a 34 year old (4”10” in height and 85 pounds in weight) female who has been diagnosed with a congenital unicuspid valve. I have been seen by cardialogists at Cornell Weill, Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins who agree that I am not eligible for surgery because I currently have a moderate aortic stenosis with the following measurements:

    Aortic Valve Area: 1.4 mm squared
    Ascending Aorta in its maximal dimension: 36 mm (enlarge when considering body size)
    Aortic Arch: 30 mm
    Descending Aorta: 13 mm (is considered normal)

    Since unicuspid valve occurs only in .02% of the population and is predominant in males (3 males to 1 female), my cardiologists have been able to make their assessments based on bicuspid valve cases. With respect to pregnancy, I have been told by one of my cardiologists that there is 1% chance that my dilated/enlarged aorta may rupture due to the increase in blood volume and pressure during pregnancy.

    To make a sound decision, I was hoping that you could please share your pregnancy experience, especially if you are similar in body size, diagnosis, and aortic measurements.

    With much appreciation,

    Mandy

  • Natalie Nixon

    Hi Melinda,

    Your story is truly inspiring and I wonder how you and your family are today. I am 20 years old and as a young child I was diagnosed with a coarctation of the aorta which had to be repaired immediately. I also have a small VSD and a Bicuspid valve and contemplate the possibility of surgery at some point in the future, although it is not needed at the moment.

    I have just completed my degree and gotten a job, also I have just found out that I am 7 weeks pregnant. My main concern is that my heart problems will be passed onto our child and how my conditions may affect me and my health during my pregnancy. I also wonder if this was the case what could be done to help me.

    I am so surprised to find that there are so many similar stories.

    Many Thanks

  • Ryan

    Hi Melinda,
    I have included my e-mail in hopes that you might respond. I found your story while googling to see if anyone outt here with valve disease is pregnant.
    I had my 2 yr old and suffered complications just after delivery. They originally told me no more, but based on how i am doing and my last echo and stress test they say go ahead. I am more than anxious and kidn of freaking out….any updates? Any adive?

  • Gina

    Reading what everyone is writing is giving me a lot of hope, thank you. I turned 24 in July of 2011 and that same month found out I was pregnant. My fiancé and I were both extremely happy, but at the same time worried about my heart mur mur (bicuspid aortic valve). After running a series of tests I was told that the narrowing of my heart valve was so severe that going through with the pregnancy was impossible. I was left with two choices, neither was good. One was to terminate the pregnancy asap to have surgery done and the other was to continue with pregnancy, but I would still be at high risk of myself or the baby dying, or both. I prayed about, cried about it, and thought about it…I only had a small amount of time to think about it. Although it was not what I wanted I ended up terminating my pregnancy, I was devastated. Protestors outside the clinic made me feel like a monster…I had the Ross Procedure done on November 2nd. I know the sternum takes about 6 months to properly heal, but I deeply and whole heartedly hope and pray that afer that time I am given the okay to conceive. Before I became pregnant I always said I wasn’t ready to be a mother, but after feeling something growing inside of you, well it changes your perspective and it made me feel so alive, an unexplainable feeling. After going through all of this I can honestly say I have been keeping a positive outlook, but every now and then I think about my baby that would have been born on March of 2012 and I shed a tear or more…and definitely can be heart breaking seeing family members who also had their babies recently. It’s definitely not easy, but I hope I may be as fortunate as some of you. God bless. 🙂

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