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Potential Cardiac Risks Following Pregnancy-Related Hypertension in Latin Women

Monica Cantu and her husband were full of joy upon learning that they were expecting twins, a boy, and a girl. They couldn’t wait to meet their babies. However, at a doctor’s appointment, Cantu found out that her baby boy was measuring small and at 23 weeks, doctors discovered an issue with the baby’s umbilical cord. The blood wasn’t flowing properly through the cord and doctors warned Cantu to be prepared for the worst. Despite this, Cantu held out hope for two healthy babies.

A couple of weeks later, Cantu started feeling strange tingling and numbness on her face. Her and her husband rushed to the hospital and discovered that her liver enzymes were elevated and her blood pressure was high, although a second reading showed it as normal. After two days with no improvement, doctors prepared Cantu for an emergency delivery, even though she was only 25 weeks along. Cantu recalls feeling panicked and devastated at the moment as her son was being estimated at just 12 ounces. Although her baby girl, Amelia, was born strong and healthy, her baby boy, Roman, passed away 2 days later. Tests later revealed that Cantu had severe preeclampsia.

High blood pressure during pregnancy is a growing problem in the U.S., but especially for Latinas. Studies have shown that hypertensive disorders of pregnancy more than doubled from 2007 to 2019 in the U.S., with Latina/Hispanic women experiencing the most significant rise. New data also links heart irregularities in older Hispanic women to high blood pressure they had years earlier during pregnancy.

One study showed that there were changes in cardiac structure and function in Latina women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy, indicating future cardiovascular events. This is why it is essential to monitor and control blood pressure both during and after pregnancy.

Lack of awareness may be why HDP is rising faster among Latina women. Studies show that Hispanic adults in the U.S. have the lowest rates of hypertension awareness and treatment compared with other ethnicities. This disparity can be explained by social determinants of health, which include factors such as limited access to healthcare services, cultural diets, and barriers to preventative care.

The best way to lower the risk of developing hypertension during pregnancy and controlling blood pressure after pregnancy is to adopt a heart-healthy diet, incorporate regular exercise, monitor blood pressure regularly, and see a doctor regularly.

Despite her tragic experience, Cantu decided to have more children, but she made sure her next pregnancy was different. She educated herself about preeclampsia, joined a support organization, and monitored her blood pressure at home during her second pregnancy.

Fortunately, Cantu’s preeclampsia did not return during her second pregnancy, and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Her strongest advice for other Latinas is to become educated about HDP and advocate for themselves at medical visits. She believes that it is essential to trust your doctor but also to ask questions and request tests if necessary.

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