Innovative healthcare has lengthened lifespans and removed many of the limitations that once restricted people born with congenital heart disease. Many young women now lead normal, healthy lives after being successfully treated, often without much thought about how their condition may affect their long-term health—including their sexual health and reproductive choices.
The Reproductive Health, Pregnancy & Congenital Heart Disease Program at Riley at IU Health is designed to meet the unique reproductive healthcare needs of young women who are transitioning to adulthood. Our physicians help patients with congenital heart conditions plan for current and future health needs. This program is right for:
- Young girls who are starting puberty
- Adolescent girls who are in puberty and starting menstrual periods
- Adolescents and young women who have difficulties or questions regarding their menstrual periods
- Adolescents and young women who are sexually active or contemplating being sexually active
- Young women who are thinking about pregnancy or trying to get pregnant
We help patients prepare for a broad range of issues that affect their health as they reach sexual maturity. Among them are:
- Identifying safe treatments for menstrual-related issues such as delayed periods, irregular periods, heavy periods or cramping
- Choosing safe birth control methods and pain medications
- Discussing whether pregnancy can occur without jeopardizing one’s health or the health of a baby
- Learning the level of prenatal care necessary for pregnancy
- Protecting against sexually transmitted diseases
- Understanding all aspects of staying sexually healthy
- Genetic counseling to understand the risk of conceiving a child with a congenital heart abnormality
- Communicating about your health and/or heart condition with any physician when discussing problems with periods, having sex or making a decision to have a baby
The Value of Consulting a Reproductive Specialist
Many healthcare providers are knowledgeable about birth control or pregnancy, but they may lack experience with congenital heart disease and the people who are affected by it. Similarly, cardiologists understand heart defects and repairs, but they may have limited knowledge about patients’ reproductive health concerns and questions.
Our multidisciplinary specialists understand all aspects of health for patients with congenital heart disease. As Indiana’s largest and most skilled healthcare network for primary and subspecialty care, we understand how chronic or complex disease can affect a child’s path to adulthood, and we are committed to helping patients make the transition in optimal health.
For Parents and Caregivers
A planned visit with our adolescent specialists gives teens and young adults an opportunity to receive counseling in a confidential atmosphere where their healthcare needs are understood. Teens who grow up with congenital heart defects naturally wonder about their changing bodies just as other teens. They may also have questions related to recognizing their own sexuality or being recognized by others as a sexual being. They may, for instance, mature at a slower rate and question whether their experiences are “normal.”
When parents and caregivers educate themselves, they can find ways to help young people prepare for a healthy sexual and reproductive life, such as planning a young person’s visit to an adolescent specialist at Riley at IU Health. Parents may schedule a consultation when the first menstrual period occurs or when a child becomes a teen. Both are appropriate times for adolescents to begin learning more about their bodies and any special needs or concerns that may affect them as adults.
When you come to Riley at IU Health, you will have private time with a trusted expert who understands your congenital heart condition and takes an interest in you as a whole person. You are respected as a unique individual who may prefer not to be defined by your heart condition. Our adolescent specialists and gynecologists are approachable people who make it comfortable to ask any question about your sexual and reproductive health. We are ready to support you as you prepare to take responsibility for your own health and wellness. This includes building a customized health passport you can carry as a reminder to future healthcare providers of your unique health circumstances.
For Young Adults
If you are already sexually active or you want to have a baby, it is especially important that you know how your heart condition affects your ability to have children. Many women with congenital heart defects have special needs for birth control. Some, for example, have a high risk for developing blood clots and should not take certain types of birth control medications. Others should not use intrauterine birth control devices (IUDs) or certain pain medications for their menstrual periods. Some medications used to manage your heart condition may be harmful to a potential pregnancy and should be changed before a pregnancy occurs.
Prenatal care is urgent for young women with complex heart disease. Some medications can be harmful to an unborn child, especially during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. If you have a heart condition, you may need extra monitoring and management of your pregnancy by maternal-fetal medicine specialists.
Riley at IU Health is Indiana’s most comprehensive resource for high-risk pregnancies and offers a level of care for you and your baby not available elsewhere in Indiana. If necessary, we can carefully plan your baby’s delivery, allowing your newborn to get immediate care at one of the nation’s top-ranked children’s hospitals—Riley at IU Health, where neonatal experts are equipped to manage any health circumstance.
Multidisciplinary Care for Your Reproductive Health
Riley at IU Health provides comprehensive reproductive care for adolescents, young adults and adults with congenital heart defects. Our multidisciplinary team includes:
- Pediatric heart surgeons and cardiologists who specialize in congenital heart defects at the Riley Heart Center, with outpatient locations throughout Indiana
- Adolescent and young adult medicine physicians
- Gynecologists who specialize in pediatric and adolescent gynecology
- Experts on genetic counseling regarding risks for pregnancies with congenital abnormalities
- Maternal-fetal medicine specialists
- Nurse educators who specialize in reproductive health and pregnancy
- Adult cardiologists who can manage the transition of healthcare for adolescents and young adults with congenital heart disease
Patients and families can depend on Riley at IU Health to provide healthcare, education and support for young women affected by congenital heart disease. Our services are designed to support each person’s total health and well-being—including sexual and reproductive health.
Conditions & Services
Our pediatric specialists provide patient- and family-centered care for most related conditions. The links below provide more specific information about some, but not all, of the conditions that we treat.
Program Forms & Resources
Program Forms & Resources
The Reproductive Health Program for Adolescents & Young Adults with Congenital Heart Disease at Riley at IU Health provides the following forms for parents, healthcare providers and personnel. We have also curated relevant resources from other websites and provided links with brief descriptions of the information that is available.
Related Programs & Departments
Related Programs & Departments
We provide multispecialty care for a number of conditions. Below are links to our related programs & departments.
For Health Professionals
Our specialists welcome referrals from primary care physicians, cardiologists and pediatric specialists who want to help their patients plan reproductive care. To make a referral, you can contact the Reproductive Health, Pregnancy & Congenital Heart Disease Program at 317.944.8812.