Tag Archives: Lexington Women’s Care

Heart Health During Pregnancy

By Donna Andrews, MSN

Donna Andrews, MSN, is a certified nurse midwife at Lexington Women’s Care, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. Certified nurse midwives are advanced practice nurses who provide OB/GYN care for women throughout their lives. Here’s what she had to say about heart health during pregnancy.

A woman’s body produces 30 to 50 percent more blood during pregnancy. That can tax the heart and kidneys, and sometimes leave her short of breath. For most women, these changes do not cause lasting harm.

Donna Andrews, MSN, inside Lexington Women’s Care with a patient

Often, pregnancy is a woman’s first encounter with regular health visits and screenings. Urine, heart and blood pressure checks happen at every visit. An unusual result may require further tests for cardiac issues. We may discover hidden or even congenital heart problems such as heart murmurs, irregular heart rhythms or heart valve problems.

The trend of older women becoming pregnant raises the risk for serious issues including congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and even stroke, as the heart, kidneys, heart valves and arteries become strained.

A new diagnosis of high blood pressure during pregnancy is a warning sign for preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that prevents the placenta from receiving adequate blood flow and may threaten the health and life of mother and child. We also screen for high blood pressure because women who have it during pregnancy have a 40 percent chance of it continuing after the baby is born.

Because the heart plays a critical role for both the mother and baby, it’s important to be aware of danger signs that can flag serious issues: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath with exertion; rapid heart rate; chest pain; coughing at night or a bloody cough; and infrequent urination. Because so many issues can be identified early and treated, keeping monthly prenatal appointments is a critical factor for long-term health.

Throughout the entire pregnancy, we encourage daily exercise. Something as simple as a 30-minute walk each day can help pregnant women stay within the parameters of healthy weight gain. We know that gaining too much during pregnancy can damage the heart, even after the baby is born.

It’s easy to say when someone is feeling winded or tired that ‘it’s just pregnancy.’ But we need to listen to women and be sensitive to all of their needs. We take care of women for a lifetime. Our work is mostly prevention. If we can teach women about becoming healthier, it contributes to better health overall.

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Centering Class Welcomes New Babies

Lexington Medical Center is overjoyed to welcome the first group of babies whose moms took part in an innovative program at the hospital called “Centering,” which allows pregnant women to receive prenatal care in a group setting.

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At the beginning of pregnancy, a mother-to-be will have an individual prenatal visit and physical exam. If she chooses to “center” her pregnancy, she’ll join a group of other expectant mothers with similar due dates for monthly Centering sessions instead of traditional office visits. Dads-to-be are welcome, too.

Upon arrival at Lexington Women’s Care, class members go directly to the Centering session where they’re greeted by staff and enjoy refreshments. There’s no waiting in the lobby for the doctor. Each Centering session lasts about two hours and offers women a supportive environment to share physical, emotional and medical pregnancy experiences.

The same physician or midwife serves as the group facilitator at each session. He or she privately performs regular health assessments such as blood pressure, weight, belly checks and heart tones at the beginning of each session. After the assessment, the facilitator leads a group discussion on topics related to pregnancy and parenting, including the physical changes women experience during pregnancy, preparing for labor and delivery, nutrition, family planning, safety, conflict resolution, parenting and newborn care.

Lexington Medical Center recently welcomed its first babies from the Centering program! WIS-TV followed this group throughout the process.


Importantly, Centering has been shown to decrease rates of preterm delivery and offer other advantages, too, including higher rates of breastfeeding and lower rates of postpartum depression.

The term “Centering” comes from the idea that the program offers obstetric care in a group setting that places responsibility on the mom, realizing that she’s the center of her and her baby’s well-being.

“Centering” Pregnancy at Lexington Women’s Care

Lexington Women’s Care, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, offers a “Centering” program for moms-to-be. “Centering” allows expectant moms to be more involved in their care through health assessments, education and support in a group setting.

During two-hour sessions, women undergo regular health assessments with a physician or midwife, including belly checks and heart tones. then, the group discusses topics related to pregnancy and parenting.

Laern more in the WIS-TV news story below, featuring Lexington Women’s Care OB/GYN Valerie Skinner leading a “Centering” class.


Topics at “Centering” sessions include pregnancy, how to prepare for childbirth and motherhood, baby care, breastfeeding, childproofing your house and baby milestones.

For more information about “Centering,” Call Lexington Women’s Care at (803) 936-8100.