MSPs urged to back heart check drive for pregnant women

A mother who almost died giving birth has taken her campaign for vital heart checks for pregnant women to the Scottish Parliament.

A mother is campaigning for heart checks to be given to pregnant women. Picture: PA
A mother is campaigning for heart checks to be given to pregnant women. Picture: PA

Carol Sunnucks developed the potentially fatal cardiac condition postpartum cardiomyopathy when she had her son Kai eight years ago.

Early detection of the rare condition is key to saving lives, Ms Sunnucks told members of Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee.

She wants the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to include tests such as ECGs and heart echo tests in pregnancy care for women in Scotland.

Ms Sunnucks said the tests could be carried out if women scored highly on a checklist of symptoms which can indicate peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), also known as postpartum cardiomyopathy.

The condition, which can affect women towards the end of their pregnancy or in the first few months after the birth of their baby, affects the heart’s ability to pump properly.

Cardiomyopathy UK reports most women make a good recovery from PPCM and some recover completely, but it can result in heart failure, which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms can include breathlessness and a fast heart rhythm.

“Unfortunately, many doctors dismiss the early symptoms because they appear to be typical of normal pregnancy, yet early detection and treatment are critical to the patient,” Ms Sunnucks said.

“If we could diagnose and treat the symptoms rather than waiting until the damage is done, we would save lives and money for the treatment of patients with heart conditions.”

She added: “Today is not for me, it is too late for me, I can’t have any more children. But I do have two beautiful nieces who will hopefully one day become mums.

“Every one of us here today has a daughter, friend or niece who has the potential of becoming pregnant. Please don’t let them experience what I did.”

Committee members agreed to write to the Scottish Government and relevant professional medical bodies for their views.