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Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Nearly 37 weeks into her second pregnancy, Sofi felt like she was running out of options. In the few weeks prior, Sofi and her husband had seen a number of cardiologists throughout Hangzhou and the gr...
2021-07-29 12:00:00

Nearly 37 weeks into her second pregnancy, Sofi felt like she was running out of options. In the few weeks prior, Sofi and her husband had seen a number of cardiologists throughout Hangzhou and the greater Zhejiang province, hoping one of them could assure her that her dream of a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) would be possible given her medical history of arrhythmia. To her dismay, one by one, they told her that the risks that came with the heart condition were too great for a VBAC and that she was better off having a cesarean.

Nevertheless, Sofi persisted. Her determination brought her to Shanghai, where Sofi was referred to SinoUnited Health's cardiologist, Dr. Lily Yan.

"It felt like [Dr. Yan] was my last hope because she was the first cardiologist who believed in me."

Sofi was first diagnosed with arrhythmia in her home country of Hungary. Despite the diagnosis, Sofi felt healthy and fit, regularly participated in sports, and was able to reach a 200bpm maximum heart rate without any issue. However, when it came to her first pregnancy, Sofi's doctors in Hungary stressed the danger a natural birth would pose to her heart and ultimately convinced Sofi to have a C-Section. "[It] felt unfair, because I felt my condition is good and my heart is not beating that fast as [my doctors] said." Sofi recalled. She had a healthy baby girl through cesarean on December 11, 2018.

Last October, Sofi discovered she was pregnant again. This time, she was determined to deliver her second child through vaginal birth. She took her previous ultrasound tests and EKG reports to Dr. Yan, the cardiologist and director of the Women's Health Center at SinoUnited Health. After a careful review of Sofi's situation and a few tests of her own, Dr. Yan was able to reassure Sofi: "Your heart IS strong enough to support the birth."

Dr. Yan is an internal medicine physician with 20 years of clinical experience. She specializes in cardiology and arrhythmias, with eight years of experience in electrophysiology. She is also a founding member of the Arrhythmia Clinic of Shanghai General Hospital. During Sofi's initial consultation in early May, just three weeks before the baby's due date, Dr. Yan was able to identify Sofi's arrhythmia as a rare form of the heart condition. Having treated patients before with the same type of arrhythmia, Dr. Yan was confident that Sofi's case did not pose any risk to her daily life or birth plan.

Dr. Lily Yan

"Sofi is young, in good health," says Dr. Yan, "her heart is normal-sized, in good condition, and strong enough to support a natural birth." The only concern Dr. Yan had was whether Sofi's heart condition would change in the final weeks of her pregnancy. Around ten days before the due date, Dr. Yan ordered another ultrasound exam and 24-hr Holter monitor test, to make sure that Sofi's heart was healthy for the baby's delivery.

"Oh my god! I did that!"

On the 30th of May, Sofi woke up early in the morning with her first contraction pain. She and her husband checked into Ferguson Women's Health, one of SinoUnited's partner maternity clinics. Sofi called Dr. Yan to help. "We had to make sure here in Shanghai with the second pregnancy that I have a professional cardiologist next to me during delivery. So I asked Dr. Lily if she would be able to show up during my delivery and make sure I'm safe, because of course I wouldn't risk my life and the baby's life." Fully understanding Sofi's desire for accompaniment, Dr. Yan agreed to help. Throughout the seven-hour labor period, Dr. Yan stood by Sofi's bedside, monitoring her situation. She also stayed for another two hours after the delivery, just to make sure everything was okay.

At 11:30am, baby Alice came to the world, safe and healthy. A dream came true. Sofi felt very happy and grateful for having a natural birth with the care of a cardiologist who believed in her.

Sofi (center) with her husband and medical staff after the successful natural birth of her daughter.

When asked why a natural birth was so important for Sofi, she responded: "Just to know that I could do that means a lot to me. Also, it's a beautiful experience.

Every birth is different, but I think many women out there think, when they're done with the birth, ‘Oh my god! I did that!' It's amazing!" Sofi hopes that readers out there can learn from her experience that "there are more chances than just the one option," but also wants to stress that "every situation is single and unique. And everyone different and responsible for their own self."

From her perspective, Dr. Yan pointed out that Sofi's story isn't one of luck, but of putting her faith in the right professionals. Dr. Yan and her team will continue to monitor and treat Sofi's arrhythmia. SinoUnited Health now has 6 clinics, more than 20 medical departments, and 10 featured service centers across Shanghai and Hangzhou. It is committed to provide the best patient-oriented healthcare through its medical professionalism and quality of service.

Six-week-old baby Alice and Sofi