Stories With HeartMaternal Heart Health Program Helps Mothers-To-Be

Posted on: Feb 04, 2016

Expecting mothers need to watch their health, but what happens when a woman’s heart is “beating for two” and heart problems arise?

Expecting mothers need to watch their health, but what happens when a woman’s heart is “beating for two” and heart problems arise? 

Thanks to a new program at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, mothers with pregnancy-related heart complications will receive the expert care and treatment they need before, during, and after their pregnancy. 

The Maternal Heart Health Program was established in June 2013 and represents an innovative collaboration between the CK Hui Heart Centre, the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, and the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. The program is led by cardiologists Dr. Nazneem Wahab and Dr. Jonathan Windram, and Obstetric Medicine specialists Dr. Rshmi Khurana and Dr. Winnie Sia from the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

 “These patients may have a pre-existing heart problem, or have one develop during the course of their pregnancy,” explains Dr. Wahab, a cardiologist at the CK Hui Heart Centre at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. “Our team’s purpose is to identify any risks to the mother and the baby and to get the team members involved on the best course of treatment for both of them.” 

The Maternal Heart Health Program’s multidisciplinary team includes cardiologists, obstetric medicine physicians (internists with special expertise in the case of pregnant women with medical problems), as well as a dietician and a pharmacist. When a pregnant woman with heart problems is referred to the program, the team can plan both pregnancy and delivery to ensure the best outcome for mother and baby. They also liaise closely with the maternal-fetal medicine physicians who are across the hallway from them and communicate regularly with the woman’s obstetric care provider. 

“Cardiac disease and pregnancy is starting to become a major health problem,” says Dr. Windram, a cardiologist at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. “Maternal age is increasing in the western world, and the number of adults with congenital heart disease is increasing. It’s very important that we have a dedicated clinic to look after both of these groups.” 

“One of the most common problems we see is an acquired heart valve condition that can become aggravated during pregnancy,’ explains Dr. Wahab. “There are also potential heart rhythm problems that usually only manifest during pregnancy. Some are more serious than others, but most of them are quite manageable and after delivery the heart returns to normal.” 

Dr. Rshmi Khurana is Director of Obstetric Medicine at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. She is enthusiastic about the Maternal Heart Health Program’s team effort and what working together as a team brings to the table. 

“Traditionally, my colleagues and I have cared for women with medical complications during their pregnancies,” explains Dr. Khurana. “Our program has grown over the years, but we’ve lacked a setting where we can see the patients with the cardiologists in order to provide these women with complex cardiac conditions cohesive multidisciplinary care.  Additionally, we are able to look after other medical conditions that these women may have. Thanks to the team effort, all of our skills are definitely growing.” 

The Maternal Heart Health Program recently got a boost thanks to Shoppers Drug Mart. Their Community Investment Committee announced a generous $5,000 donation to the program. 

“We’re very excited to be a part of this new program,” says Murtaza Hassanali, Associate Owner of Shoppers Drug Mart Meadowbrook. “Edmonton Shoppers Drug Mart stores are already supporting the Lois Hole Hospital for Women through our annual Tree of Life Campaign, and when we heard about the Maternal Heart Health Program, it seemed like a natural fit that we continue building this relationship with a donation to the program.” 

Andrew Otway, President and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, was full of praise for Shoppers Drug Mart’s donation. 

“We’re very grateful for Shoppers Drug Mart’s support of the Maternal Heart Health Program,” said Otway. “Our Foundation is proud to support innovative medical programs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, and to see early community support for this new team effort is very encouraging.”