Atrial septal defect and Pregnancy – Patient Information

What is atrial septal defect (ASD)

Atrial Septal defect is an abnormal communication between the upper two chambers of the heart namely left atrium and right atrium. Normally the left and right atrium are separated by the interatrial septum. So in atrial septal defect (ASD)  a part of the interatrial septum is missing. See the image below

Atrial Septal Defect
(Source :

In patients with ASD there is mixing of oxygenated blood of left side with venous blood on the right side.

Pregnancy Issues:

Patients with even a large unrepaired secundum atrial septal defect usually tolerate pregnancy without complications. In cases where the ASD has been closed either by surgery or by device, the course of pregnancy is similar to a normal female without heart disease, except when there are preexisting problems with heart rhythm or pulmonary hypertension.


The complications include

1- Disorders of heart rhythm – e.g. Atrial fibrillation

2. Pulmonary hypertension – where there is increased pressure in the blood vessels of the lung.

3. Paradoxical embolism – Sometimes blood clots formed in the leg veins (increased chances in pregnant females) can pass through the defect in the heart and get lodged in the brain and can cause stroke .

  1. Elective closure of ASD before contemplating pregnancy is advisable
  2. Meticulous attention should be paid to the maternal leg veins, particularly during peridelivery, because deep venous thrombosis could precipitate a paradoxical embolus and stroke.
  3. In case of any complication like atrial fibrillation, pulmonary hypertension, close follow-up with a cardiologist is recommended.
Keywords: Congenital heart disease, pregnancy and heart disease, Patient information, atrial septal defect.