Heart & Blood Condition

Expert reports about Heart & Blood Condition



What is cyanosis during pregnancy?

Cyanosis is a bluish discoloration of the skin or mucous membranes due to an inadequate supply of oxygen to body tissues. Cyanosis can be peripheral or central. Peripheral cyanosis means that distal (outlying) parts of the body, such as fingers, toes, hands, or feet, are cyanotic, due to restrictions of blood flow to that region. Central cyanosis means that either there is extremely low blood pressure (due to blood loss or heart problems), or the blood is deficient in oxygen, which can happen for a variety of reasons, including problems with the heart and great vessels, problems with the lungs, and various poisons. In the context of pregnancy, the concern is the possibility of central cyanosis due to heart disease. Sometimes this means problems with a heart valve that you acquired growing up as a result of an infection. Still, often it means congenital heart disease, heart disease related to malformations present since you were born.


In many cases, a woman’s heart disease can be mild before she is pregnant but can produce cyanosis during pregnancy as the demands on the heart and lungs increase. A common way to develop cyanosis is due to a congenital condition that causes shunting of blood from the right side of the heart to the left side, meaning that not all the blood that enters the right side of the heart after returning from body tissues passes through the lungs before it is pumped again through the body. A relatively common way for this to happen involves what’s called Eisenmenger syndrome. In this condition, a congenital malformation of the heart or great vessels, such as a hole between the left and right side of the heart (atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect), allows some blood to flow from the left side of the heart to the right side (a left-to-right shunt), because pressure is much higher on the left than the right side of the heart. Over time, this phenomenon increases the pressure in the right side of the heart and the lungs, leading to pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the pulmonary blood vessels) and the high pressure now causes blood to move the other way, from the right side of the heart to the left (right-to-left shunt). Cyanosis also can develop due to congenital disorders of connective tissue, such as Marfan syndrome, which can cause problems with the aortic valve.


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