When 28-year-old Stefania received her heart transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in August 2008, she and her husband were already hoping to be parents. Only 16 months after her transplant, she delivered twin girls.
“I wanted a transplant because it meant I could have children,” said Stefania, who had a rare heart condition known as restrictive cardiomyopathy that results in a stiffening of the heart muscle and eventually results in heart failure.
“Stefania was in uncharted waters,”said David Baran, MD, transplant cardiologist and Director of Heart Failure and Transplant Research. “Worldwide, there have been only 39 reported pregnancies after heart transplant. The birth of these two healthy babies was due to the extraordinary multidisciplinary team of specialists in heart transplant, high-risk pregnancy and neonatolgy who worked together to protect the lives of both the mother and infants,” he stressed.
Fortunately, Stefania is part of a unique clinical trial being conducted only at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. She takes just one immunosuppressive medication- Prograf- to prevent organ rejection, while heart transplant recipients at other centers take three medications. Unlike other immunosuppressive drugs, Prograf is less likely to cause birth defects.
Director of Maternal and Fetal Medicine Munir Nazir, MD, closely managed the progress of the twins throughout their gestation. He diagnosed the rare and potentially fatal twin-twin fetal transfusion syndrome just in time to refer Stefania to another highly specialized center where a laser procedure was performed in utero to ensure proper blood supply to both twins. Melania and Natalia, were born at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center six weeks early due to this syndrome.
“Her heart was rock solid throughout the pregnancy and continues to be healthy,” said Dr. Baran. “I told Dr. Nazir he could be comfortable doing whatever was necessary in the course of the birth, that her heart was strong.”
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