Marian Smith is a yoga instructor, so focusing on her breath comes naturally.

When Smith was two months pregnant and found herself struggling to breathe, she knew something was terribly wrong.

“I couldn’t really go anywhere outside of my apartment, because I would be so short of breath, I couldn’t run anymore, I couldn’t do yoga without feeling faint,” Smith recalled.

Marian went to see cardiologist Dan Halpern at NYU Langone Health. The diagnosis? Congenital heart disease, which manifested as a tiny hole in Smith’s heart. Halpern said Smith needed treatment.

“The procedure itself was done with the minimal amount of radiation that could be used for it, and there was also fetal baby protection,” said Halpern.

Surgeons used a catheter to repair the hole when Smith was around 18 weeks along in her pregnancy. Smith said that even when she woke up from the surgery, “it was like a breath of fresh air.”

A few months later, Smith gave birth to a healthy boy named Idenara.

“Nowadays, congenital heart disease is among the most prevalent conditions that young women of childbearing age could have,” continued Halpern.

Halpern advises expectant mothers to see a doctor if expecting women experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or heart palpitations. Marian hopes others learn from her experience.

“If something doesn’t feel right, speak up, advocate for yourself, get your heart checked, don’t ignore it,” Smith said.