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UPMC program highlights the importance of heart health during pregnancy

Pittsburgh program highlights importance of heart health during pregnancy
Pittsburgh program highlights importance of heart health during pregnancy 02:32

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — February is American Heart Month, and KDKA-TV is taking a closer look at women, pregnancy and the importance of our heart health. 

A program at UPMC is shining a light during a time that many moms don't think about much, but they should. 

Alison Blinger had her second daughter, Claire, last June. She said her pregnancy was smooth and the delivery went well. It wasn't until she got home that something was off.

"I couldn't take a deep breath, and I weighed more prior to delivery after having her. That's how much fluid I had," she said. 

She quickly reached out to doctors with UPMC's Postpartum Hypertension Center, a program she joined because of her history with high blood pressure. 

Doctors suggested that she take medicine to decrease the fluid. It helped, but it was not enough. 

"I was so happy to be home, to be with my older daughter," Blinger said. "And we're like, oh, we're a family of four, and then I had to go right back to the hospital."

Dr. Malamo Countouris is the co-director of the program. It focuses on the fourth trimester for women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy, or preeclampsia. 

The connection between doctor and patient is done through the phone. 

"Monitor their blood pressures at home. And then they are able to text in their blood pressure measures and we give almost real-time feedback," Countouris said. 

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and Countouris says the symptoms are silent.

"A lot of people don't feel when blood pressure goes up and that's one of the scary things about hypertension and high blood pressure in pregnancy," Countouris said. "You may not feel it until it's in a severe range."

As for Blinger, the program was life-saving. She still monitors her blood pressure weekly and will remain in the program until her daughter is 1 years old. 

"If you don't take care of yourself, who's going to?" she said. 

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