Experiences of women with cardiac disease in pregnancy: A systematic review and metasynthesis

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMJ Open, 2018, 8 (9)
Issue Date:
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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2018. Objective Cardiac disease in pregnancy is a leading cause of maternal death in high-income countries. Evidence-based guidelines to assist in planning and managing the healthcare of affected women is lacking. The objective of this research was to produce the first qualitative metasynthesis of the experiences of pregnant women with existing or acquired cardiac disease to inform improved healthcare services. Method We conducted a systematic search of peerreviewed publications in five databases to investigate the decision-making processes, supportive strategies and healthcare experiences of pregnant women with existing or acquired cardiac disease, or of affected women contemplating pregnancy. Identified publications were screened for duplication and eligibility against selection criteria, following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. We then undertook a thematic analysis of the data relating to women's experiences extracted from each publication to inform new healthcare practices and communication. Results Eleven studies from six countries were included in our meta-synthesis. Four themes were revealed. Women with congenital and acquired heart disease identified situations where they had either taken charge of decision-making, lacked control or experienced emotional uncertainty when making decisions. Some women were risk aware and determined to take care of themselves in pregnancy while others downplayed the risks. Women with heart disease acknowledged the importance of specific social support measures during pregnancy and after child birth, and reported a spectrum of healthcare experiences. Conclusions There is a lack of integrated and tailored healthcare services and information for women with cardiac disease in pregnancy. The experiences of women synthesised in this research has the potential to inform new evidencebased guidelines to support the decision-making needs of women with cardiac disease in pregnancy. Shared decisionmaking must consider communication across the clinical team. However, coordinated care is challenging due to the different specialists involved and the limited clinical evidence concerning effective approaches to managing such complex care.
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