OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Karen Florios’ son won’t have a blood sibling. While pregnant with her son, Florio developed a rare condition called preeclampsia. It led to high blood pressure, brain swelling, cells in her liver dying prematurely, her son being born nine weeks early, and could put her at risk for heart issues the rest of her life.
“That was enough to scare me into being a mom of one,” said Florio, who is a doctor specializing in maternal and fetal medicine.
Florio now has the condition under control, but relies on her personal experience as the co-medical director of the Heart Disease in Pregnancy Program at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute.
She described the program as one of only a handful in the country which pair a fetal care specialist and a cardiologist to help women who develop preeclampsia.
“When I sit down with patients and I talk to them about the complications, I often do give them my story so that they understand they're not alone, many people experience this, it's not just something that happened to them,” Florio said.
Doctors in the program believe educating the public about the longterm risks of preeclampsia is the first step in helping mothers live a heart-healthy life after giving birth.
“It [preeclampsia] also increases the risk of diabetes and high cholesterol long-term,” said Dr. Valerie Rader, a cardiologist in the program. “It can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, so things like coronary disease or blockage in the blood vessels, congestive heart failure, stroke and increases your risk of cardiovascular death. So that's why it's important follow these women longterm.”
High blood pressure during pregnancy is one of the symptoms of preeclampsia.
Rader and Florio recommend pregnant women maintain contact with their doctors throughout their pregnancy to track the possibility of preeclampsia.