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Heart disease is present in 0.5–1% of all pregnant women and is the biggest killer of pregnant women in the developed world (fig 1). Surprisingly, there have been no signs of decline in this incidence over the past two decades (fig 2). In the UK, all maternal deaths (during pregnancy and within the first post partum year) are recorded and examined in detail every 3 years. Of the maternal cardiac deaths reported for the 2003–5 triennium, more than half were due to coronary artery disease, puerperal cardiomyopathy and aortic dissection (table 1).1 As in previous triennial reports, substandard care continues to be an important factor, and contributed to the woman’s death in more than a third of cases.
These conditions often present acutely and catastrophically in women with no known pre-existing disease. Rapid recognition of the acute presentation and appropriate management will improve their chances of survival. In addition, identifying risk factors for these conditions should flag up at risk patients for targeted ante- and post-natal care. Modifiable risk factors such as obesity and smoking appear particularly important for this group of women and are a growing public health problem. In addition, social deprivation and immigrant status are significant risk factors for maternal deaths of all causes, including heart disease, underscoring the need to improve access to health care for these vulnerable groups.
ACUTE CORONARY SYNDROMES AND ISCHAEMIC HEART DISEASE
Death from ischaemic heart disease
Maternal deaths from acute coronary syndromes (ACS) and ischaemic …