Women and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in Canada. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in Canada. The top risk factors for heart disease are smoking, obesity and diabetes. Yet, many women without any of these conditions will develop heart disease. Clearly, the traditional male-centric models of heart disease risk do not always apply to women, which is why researchers are working to identify and develop new risk factor models that are specific to women.

The Maternal Health Clinic

During pregnancy and the postpartum period, women accesses the health care system on a regular basis - perhaps for the first time. Pregnancy provides a new, early window of opportunity to identify risk factors and implement screening and intervention strategies that may improve your long-term health. The Maternal Health Clinic  at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) is designed to support the heart health of women that have had one or more of the following pregnancy complications:

When women with the above criteria are assessed at the Maternal Health Clinic, clinicians will review all pregnancy complications, their past medical history, and their family’s medical history. Clinicians measure their blood pressure, weight, height and waist circumference and calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI). Clinician may order blood work for cholesterol, lipids and glucose and a urine test for protein.

The Maternal Clinic at KGH is the first of its kind in North America. The clinic was designed by  Dr. Graeme Smith, director of the clinician investigation program in the maternal-fetal medicine division at KGH. Dr. Smith has proposed pregnancy and the postpartum period as the best time for women to be screened for heart disease risk factors. Pregnancy is a physiologic stress test, one that can reveal underlying problems. The Maternal Health Clinic is available at 6 months postpartum to women who experienced pregnancy complications including; preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, gestational impaired glucose tolerance, intrauterine growth restriction, a term baby less than 2500g, idiopathic preterm delivery or placental abruption.The goals of the clinic are to promote mothers' health, screen for heart disease risk factors and educate women on the links between pregnancy complications and heart disease. Dr. Smith hopes that the clinic and approach to screening can educate and empower women to take steps to prevent heart disease.

Looking for additional tools? 

The Patient Information Poster may be downloaded and used at your center.

Patient Education Poster

The Physician Information Poster may be downloaded and used at your center. 

Physician Information Poster


The Maternal Health Follow Up Form is to be used by healthcare providers to record information and calculate a woman’s lifetime risk for heart disease and stroke in order to help them improve their patients’ long-term health. Women with a high lifetime risk for heart disease and stroke may benefit from lifestyle modification, dietary counselling, drug therapy, smoking cessation programs and regular follow up.

The Postpartum Mother’s Health Record is designed for the mother’s use. We have timed the collection of information to coincide with your baby’s scheduled visits and immunizations. Use the card to help set goals and keep track of weight loss. Keep the card with your baby’s immunization card as a reminder of when to record the information. Give a copy of the completed card to your health care provider at the end of your first year postpartum and review it with him or her for any further suggestions.

Click here to access information about the Maternal Health Clinic for mothers to learn more about the clinic’s services.

Stories from Clinic Participants

"Upon hearing from the Mother's Program after my second pregnancy I was a little surprised as I had been active throughout my pregnancy and felt that I had better managed my weight than with my first, however I did start out several pounds heavier, and still gained a fair amount of weight. At my meetings with several health professionals, I was provided with information of a simple and practical nature with regards to potential future health and wellness implications and some basic suggestions for making improvements. It seems that genetics could be a little stacked against me, so that information provided me with enough incentive to work on the things that were within my control, namely, improved health through better eating habits and increased fitness levels. I reduced my weight and body fat percentage and started my third pregnancy in my best condition in years and have maintained a good level of fitness, health and weight gain. I feel fortunate that I have the information provided by the Mother's Program as it will keep me motivated as I look forward to continuing on the path to improved fitness and wellness after delivery and recovery."
- Krista D.