Special Feature: Carla's Story

09 Feb 2022
09 Feb 2022

Our first instalment in a series of CHD patient profiles, Carla's story gives an insight into navigating pregnancy with a heart condition.

10 December 2016: The scene one women versus one stick. Oh how the results of that stick changed the normality of what I called life. Just two days before I turned 40 I discovered I was pregnant. 

Two days thereafter I sat at my gynaecologist who spoke about my age and heart condition - holes in my heart (meaning that I had a broken heart way before I knew the heart break of boys). He discouraged the pregnancy as he felt the risk was just far too great to continue safely.

However, I have been known for one other heart condition – a brave heart and decided I would get a second opinion. I decided to consult my doctors at Groote Schuur E17 clinic as they had been monitoring my heart condition for the last four years and I was confident that my overall active lifestyle and heart changes would lead to a more encouraging opinion.

With a trembling heart filled with anticipation, fear and happiness I waited until they opened again after their Christmas break. After a long month of the worst morning sickness and secrecy around my condition, the E17 clinic doctors gave me the green light with the stipulation that I attend their maternity clinic.

During my weekly visits I was encouraged to continue to be active but to not overdo it (hinting to my recent hobby of hiking) as I always presented with no change to my heart health. I maintained most of my daily routine including walking from Surfers Corner in Muizenberg to St James or Kalk Bay and working from the office and home. Other than the horrid all day morning sickness (yep you guessed it the entire nine months) my pregnancy progressed normally. 

We did all the necessary testing with Prof Zühlke and her team, including an amniocentesis to make sure that my age and heart condition was not affecting my baby. I was also closely monitored by the doctors at the Groote Schuur maternity clinic for the entire nine months and thankfully there was very little to report medically. By my third trimester I was bigger and a lot slower but I still enjoyed walks along the promenade and the beach and handled my normal day to day without much change in my condition or effort. 

My heart condition did not deteriorate or force me to have to change my activity level during my pregnancy. In fact I even enjoyed my last beach walk along the Muizenberg promenade on the day I went into labour (to be fair this walk was more to encourage my little kicker to vacate my tummy hotel) even between contractions my heart was still fine.

On the 28th of July 2017, one week shy of my predicted due date, little Michael swam out with very little fuss and I got to see my feet again (it had been a seriously a long nine months with a very big belly). By the Sunday afternoon we were sent home healthy and happy with no change or effect on my heart.

Needless to say, I could not wait to show Michael his “back yard” and just twelve days later we went on our 1st walk to Kalk Bay for lunch. He was not yet two weeks old and had a nappy change and feed on the rocks at Baileys Cottage basking in the rare winter sun. 

Happy, healthy and oh so busy Michael, who will be five this year, still enjoys our walks to St James beach and sometimes Kalk Bay. I will be forever grateful that I was blessed with amazing doctors and nurses at GSH maternity clinic as well as Prof Zühlke and her cardiac team in ensuring that both my boys Michael and his brother Adam (also born at GSH) were born healthy and with no complications.

By maintaining an active lifestyle my heart condition has not caused any real restrictions to my day to day life and I am a very proud mama to two beautiful boys who were delivered naturally. Thank you to GSH maternity and E17 as well as Prof Zühlke and the team for the best care any cardiac pregnant mama could have asked for.

Check out this information sheet to find out more about navigating pregnancy with a heart condition.