Specialized care for pregnant women with congenital heart disorders

Published on March 17th, 2022 by Emily Stembridge.

Maternal Fetal Medicine is home to a variety of specialized clinics for the complex care of high-risk mothers and babies. One of those clinics, led by Jennifer Thompson, MD, associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is focused on caring for pregnant mothers with congenital heart conditions. There are very few congenital heart clinics for pregnant women in the country that offer such effective, collaborative care, said Kelly Bennett, MD, MS, director of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine.

The patients seen at this clinic are at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy and labor, such as arrhythmias, preeclampsia or growth abnormalities for their babies.

“The goal of our clinic is to have coordinated care for our patients with complex cardiac disease and to ensure they’re having all of their concerns addressed — from ensuring proper fetal growth of their baby by using ultrasounds to performing maternal echocardiograms and coordinating care across cardiology and obstetrics,” said Thompson.

Thompson and the clinic commonly see patients with ventricular septal defects (a hole in the heart), atrial septal defect history, patients who were born with single ventricles that were later repaired, and a variety of other congenital heart conditions. “We see the full scope of women who were born with congenital heart disease,” she said.

The clinic is a prime example of the power of collaboration of care across disciplines at VUMC, as Maternal Fetal Medicine works closely with the Department of Cardiac Surgery at every step of a patient’s journey.

“It’s such an advantage for physicians across disciplines to be able to see patients in the same space in real time to talk about the condition and how the pregnancy is progressing,” said Thompson. “If we have patients concerned about possible interventions to achieve the best outcomes for their babies, we’re able to address those concerns collaboratively in one shared space. This is beneficial not only for physicians, but also the patients.”

Ultimately, the collaborative clinic creates an environment that is solely focused on patient-centered care. “We’re able to coordinate care so patients can see us all on the same day or within the same site,” said Thompson. “As clinicians, we’re all able to talk together and put the patient at the center of our practice.”