Heart Disease: Risk for Expectant Moms

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Doctors say new mothers need to pay attention to their own health, not just their baby's - especially the months right after giving birth.

A rare, but deadly form of heart disease can strike women from the last month of pregnancy through the first few months after giving birth.

Tanya Ginther has everything to live for. But she almost lost it all. Two months after giving birth to her second child, her heart suddenly stopped beating. Her husband, Mike, called 911 and did CPR until help arrived.

He tried to revive Tanya during the frantic 911 call, yelling, "Come on, Tanya, come on! There you go! There you go, honey! Breathe, girl! Breathe!"

Tanya made it to the hospital, but her heart continued to give out. Doctors held out little hope.

"They said 'we're sorry, but she's going,'" Mike said of the doctors' reaction.

Against all odds, doctors installed a heart pump, which kept Tanya alive until her heart was strong enough to pump on its own.

"The heart muscle weakens in the last few months of pregnancy. We don't know what causes it. It could be a virus, inflammation, or the rapid changes in hormones," Dr. Sharonne Hayes, cardiologist, Mayo Clinic said.

The problem with recognizing this condition is new mothers usually feel bad because it goes with the territory. And with a baby to care for, moms tend to ignore their own health concerns.

Before her collapse, Tanya was out of breath but kept quiet because she didn't want to overreact. That was a nearly-fatal mistake.

Now, she is warning other new mothers about the heart condition that nearly killed her.

"Don't feel like you're overreacting, because when it comes to your heart and staying alive, you can't overreact," Tanya said.

New moms need to call their doctor if they feel short of breath, light headed, or continue to swell.

For the little ones who depend on her, mothers need to pay attention to their own health, too.

*Originally aired March 2, 2009

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Lorie Johnson

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