- A 30-year-old pregnant woman with no family history of heart disease was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.
- The woman was treated to get her heart to return to a normal rhythm.
- Experts say women need to insist on seeing a specialists if they think something is wrong.
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As a mother of one with another baby on the way, 30 year-old Jessica Diede of Phoenix, Arizona exercised regularly and ate a healthy diet. But 20 weeks into her pregnancy, she found herself at an indoor playground with a worryingly fast heart rate. When Diede laid down on her side, her heart rate returned to normal.
“That was one of my red flags. I was like ‘Okay if I just laid like this and it just went normal, this is not right,'” Diede, a volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women “Real Women” campaign, told Insider.
That incident was the beginning of Diede’s long journey of finding a correct diagnosis. She now advocates for other women to see a specialist if they sense something is wrong with their health.
After the scare, Diede tracked every time her heart rate climbed, and brought that log to her next OB-GYN appointment. Diede’s doctor thought anxiety was causing her heart problems. Diede knew that wasn’t the issue, and insisted on seeing a cardiologist.
“If I had not asked him to give me that referral he would have never given it to me,” she said.
She was shocked by the cardiologist’s diagnosis: “‘You actually have cardiomyopathy and your heart is failing’ and I said what, I didn’t expect that,” Diede said.
Cardiomyopathy is a disease in which the heart is unable to pump blood effectively.
By this point, Diede’s racing heart episodes had escalated to about three to four times a day, lasting at least five minutes each time.
Diede needed two procedures after her baby’s delivery to restore a normal heart rhythm
As Diede’s pregnancy progressed, her oxygen levels dropped, and her medication for cardiomyopathy stopped working. “The bigger I got, the worse it was on my heart,” she said.
Because of these issues, Diede had to go into labor at 34 weeks. She had a forceps delivery, in which doctors have to use a tong-like tool to pull the baby out.
Diede’s heart episodes didn’t stop after her child’s birth. After meeting with different cardiologists, one of them finally diagnosed her with another heart problem: AV-nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT), which is a type of rapid heart rhythm. She had two procedures to restore her heart to a normal rhythm.
Since then, Diede’s heart episodes have subsided. She now has to take a beta-blocker to keep her heart health in check for the rest of her life.
Diede advocates for women to fight to see a specialist if they sense something is wrong
This experience has inspired Diede to educate women, both pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy, “to listen to their bodies and then take charge of their own health,” she said. “I want the women to just push for referrals and fight for your health if something doesn’t feel right.”
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a volunteer medical expert at the American Heart Association Go Red for Women, said pregnant women should advocate for themselves if they suspect they have health issues. “The worst case scenario is you’re wrong, but that’s the best case scenario,” she said.
Steinbaum said pregnant women should talk to their doctor if they have shortness of breath, chest pains, or swelling of the ankles.