The different biopsychosocial periods in a woman's life are all interactively associated with the cardiovascular system. The present study was designed to address questions related to sexuality and reproductive health in a large cohort of women with congenital heart disease. Overall, 536 women (median age 29 years, range 18 to 75) completed a questionnaire during their visit at 2 tertiary care centers for congenital heart disease. Patients were categorized according to their functional class and according to the degree of severity of the underlying heart defect. The median age at menarche was significantly delayed in patients with functional class III-IV and in women with complex or cyanotic anomalies. More than 1/4 of the women (29%) had at least once sought medical advice for menstrual discomforts, and the proportion was significantly increased for those in the worst functional class (49%, p <0.001) and for patients with a cyanotic heart defect (43%, p = 0.03). Overall, 9% reported increased or altered symptoms related to their heart defect during sexual activity. This proportion increased significantly with worsening functional class (6%, 11%, and 26% in functional class I, II, and III-IV, respectively; p = 0.001), increased severity (5%, 8%, and 17% for simple, moderate, and severe heart defects, respectively; p = 0.005), and in women with cyanosis (8% and 28% in acyanotic and cyanotic patients, respectively; p <0.001). In conclusion, to ensure high-quality care for this demanding and growing patient population, physicians must be aware that issues related to the entire reproductive cycle should be considered when counseling these patients.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.