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Corrigan Minehan Heart Center

Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Program

The Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Program at Mass General provides personalized and exceptional multidisciplinary care for people who are pregnant, or those who desire pregnancy, with either congenital or acquired cardiac conditions.
Doctor with baby
Doctor with baby

Explore This Treatment Program

Overview

The Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center provides personalized, expert care for people who are pregnant, or those who desire pregnancy (counseling before you become pregnant), who either have a pre-existing heart condition or are at high risk for developing one.

The goals of the program are to:

  • Ensure the best possible pregnancy outcomes for birthing parents and babies 
  • Help people who are pregnant or have given birth maintain long-term cardiovascular health
  • Educate the medical professional and patient community about cardiovascular health during pregnancy
  • Support and pioneer new knowledge that betters the lives of people who are pregnant

The Importance of Cardiovascular Health During Pregnancy

It is important for patients who have pre-existing heart conditions, or are high risk for them, to seek specialized medical care when pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Pregnancy is a unique time in a birthing parent’s life during which the cardiovascular system is significantly altered. During pregnancy, blood volume increases, blood pressure falls, the blood thickens and the heart pumps 30-50% more blood a minute than what is typical. These changes persist after delivery.

Some heart conditions can pose a risk during pregnancy for both the birthing parent and the baby. Such conditions include:

  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (high blood pressure, preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, gestational hypertension)
  • Prior heart conditions that necessitated cardiovascular care
  • Newly diagnosed heart condition during or after pregnancy
  • Women previously treated with chemotherapy that impacts the heart (for example Adriamycin or chest radiation)
  • Personal or family history of genetic heart conditions

Highest risk conditions include:

  • Cardiomyopathy (weakened heart pump, example peripartum cardiomyopathy)
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high pressure in lung arteries)
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Valve disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Aortic disease
  • Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

 Complications that can result from cardiovascular disease during pregnancy include stroke, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve complications.

Learn more about pregnancy's effect on the heart >

Highest Quality Reproductive Care

Our program is committed to providing the highest quality reproductive care for all patients who desire pregnancy or need to consider pregnancy termination. Mass General along with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology reaffirms the commitment to continue to provide the full range of high-quality, compassionate, patient-centered reproductive care for our patients. Please see important updates to our Family Planning Program.

Care from a Multidisciplinary Team

Patients in the Mass General Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Program are cared for by an integrative team of specialists that guide them every step of the way. Our cardiac specialists work closely with maternal-fetal medicine specialists, anesthesiologists and cardiac imaging specialists to guide patients through planning, pregnancy and delivery. But our focus is also on lifelong postpartum cardiac care. The Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Program serves a bridge to long-term cardiovascular health.

Providers in our program also lead patient care in the:

What to Expect

Our doctors and staff provide individualized care and treatment plans for patients before, during and after pregnancy. After consultation, our team of doctors and nurses meet to comprehensively review an individual’s information and establish a detailed multidisciplinary labor and delivery plan and anticipate all possible care needs for both mothers and babies. Clinicians are experienced in a variety of cardiovascular treatment during pregnancy, and in some situations testing, such as ultrasounds and exercise tests, might be useful to inform a patient’s risk. Our team wants to make sure you feel comfortable and so we will guide you every step of the way to ensure your questions have been answered from the cardiology team, the maternal fetal medicine experts and obstetric anesthesiologists.

Ways We Support Our Patients

Education

Our program is committed to educating the medical professional and patient community about cardiovascular health during pregnancy. There is an urgent need for increased awareness and knowledge about the cardiovascular impacts during pregnancy to turn the tides of maternal mortality in the United States. 

Our program has held an annual education series for medical professional bringing together obstetricians, cardiologists and anesthesiologists to learn collaboratively about management of high risk cardiovascular conditions in pregnancy. 
Learn More>

Research

Our team’s research focusing on cardiovascular disease and pregnancy ensures that we are providing the latest in treatment options leading to the best possible outcomes for our patients. Learn more about the research interests of our team:

Doreen DeFaria Yeh, MD
Dr. DeFaria focus is in Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) and pregnancy, pulmonary hypertension and other structural and valvular heart conditions in pregnancy. Her research has focused on evaluating at exercise and ventricular reserve among congenital heart patients and among women with peripartum cardiomyopathy, including echocardiographic findings and outcomes of abnormality ventricular reserve. She has written numerous reviews in ACHD and pregnancy, including mechanisms of heart failure in pregnancy as well as the highest risk cardiovascular conditions in pregnancy. Other academic focus is in education around cardiovascular disease in pregnancy.
Michael Honigberg, MD
Dr. Honigberg is a cardiologist-investigator whose research program focuses on improving mechanistic understanding and clinical actionability of sex-specific cardiovascular disease risk factors in women using a broad range of methodologies and collaborative science. He is currently the Principal Investigator of studies examining the acute cardiovascular effects of pregnancy and preeclampsia on the maternal cardiovascular system, the interplay between social determinants of health and pregnancy in influencing long-term hypertension risk and novel mechanisms of accelerated cardiovascular disease in women with early age of menopause. His goal is to leverage insights from these studies to enable “precision cardiovascular prevention” for women.
Emily Lau, MD
Dr. Lau is a cardiologist and investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She received her medical degree from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Masters in Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She trained in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, where she also served as Chief Medical Resident. She subsequently completed cardiovascular disease fellowship and advanced echocardiography training at Mass General. She is board certified in cardiology, echocardiography and internal medicine. Dr. Lau specializes in women's cardiovascular health, general cardiology and echocardiography. Her research focuses on understanding how biologic sex differences and female-specific risk factors including adverse pregnancy outcomes contribute to heart disease.
Christopher Learn, MD
Dr. Learn’s clinical and research focus on the care of adults with congenital heart disease. He has particular interests in echocardiography, maternal CHD in pregnancy, quality improvement and the transition from pediatric to adult care.
Nandita Scott, MD, FACC
Dr. Scott’s is currently working to build a multicenter U.S. Pregnancy Registry with the goals of informing on best practice for the management of pregnant women in America. She is also an investigator in the multicenter REBIRTH study—evaluating the use of bromocriptine in women with peripartum cardiomyopathy. Alongside co investigators, she is evaluating microvascular coronary function in women with severe spectrum preeclampsia and is an investigator in the U.S. national iSCAD registry—enrolling patients with spontaneous coronary artery dissection. In 2020, she was awarded the Massachusetts Medical Society Women’s Health Research Award.
Ada Stefanescu, MD, MSc, FACC
Dr. Stefanescu Schmidt is an Adult Congenital Heart Disease specialist and Interventional Cardiologist. Her clinical practice and research focus on interventions to increase quality of life and longevity of adults with congenital heart disease. Her interests include interventions to optimize cardiovascular health prior to pregnancy, as well as diagnostic and interventional procedures during pregnancy. She obtained research training through a Master's in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health and has participated and led single and multi-center clinical studies.
Melissa Wood, MD
Dr. Wood completed her undergraduate and medical degrees in the combined BA/MD program from the University of Missouri-Kansas City followed by training in internal medicine and cardiovascular medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School in Boston, where she served as Chief Medical Resident. Dr. Wood joined the staff of Mass General in 2000 where she holds the Cathy E. Minehan Chair of Cardiovascular Disease in Women and co-directs the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program and the Mass General Multidisciplinary SCAD Program. Dr. Wood is a dedicated advocate for her patients and colleagues and has been involved in successful advocacy efforts at the state and national levels. She has lead publications which have addressed the impact of social determinants of health on cardiovascular care, identified existing disparities in care has worked tirelessly to advance diversity in the field of cardiovascular medicine. Dr. Wood is on the Steering Committee of the iSCAD Registry and is the current Governor of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American College of Cardiology and is a Trustee of the ACC and is the Chair of the ACC Board of Governors.

Our Team

Co-directors:

Faculty: 

Registered Nurses:

  • Mary Appleyard, RN
  • Lauren McLaughlin, RN

Nurse Practitioners:

  • Sherrin Gallagher, NP
  • Patricia Williams, NP
  • Alexis Auger, NP
  • Charlene O’Reilly, NP 

Physician Assistant:

  • Kate Shepperd, PA

Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialists:

Patient Stories

Contact Us

The Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Program at Mass General provides personalized and exceptional multidisciplinary care for people who are pregnant, or those who desire pregnancy, with either congenital or acquired cardiac conditions.