This Is What It’s Like to Be Pregnant When You Have Heart Disease

Courtesy of Shana Melanson

Courtesy of Shana Melanson

Last year, when Shana Melanson was four months pregnant with her second child, she was standing outside a light rail station waiting for the shuttle she takes to work when, suddenly, she fainted. She fell on the concrete and broke her nose. 

Shana spent the next five days at University of Washington Medical Center while her cardiology and maternity care team adjusted her medications and made sure she—and her baby—would be OK. 

This wasn’t the first time during her pregnancy that Shana’s heart had caused her to lose consciousness. Three months earlier, it happened at a conference in Canada.

“I was eating lunch having a conversation with another attendee and I just passed out and fell on the floor,” she recalls.

Shana, 38, has a heart condition that causes her heart to lose its normal rhythm and stop pumping blood—a form of cardiac arrest—that her doctors believe is triggered by pregnancy.

Her heart troubles started when she went into sudden cardiac arrest three months after giving birth to her first child. That was three years ago, and until the conference room episode, she had never had symptoms. 

Read the Right as Rain by UW Medicine article