Pregnant Woman Reportedly Dies After Shoveling Snow

Winter storm Jonas has left the entire east coast reeling, and even more so for the family and friends of a young pregnant woman, who died Saturday, after reportedly shoveling snow in front of her house. Briahna Gerloff, who was just 18, of Pottstown, PA, was found unresponsive in her kitchen, NBC10 reports.

Gerloff was eight months pregnant and had several heart defects, according to one relative who spoke with NBC10. This included Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare condition in which sufferers are born with an extra electrical pathway in the heart, which can cause a rapid heartbeat. "I told her it probably wasn’t a good idea for her to be outside shoveling," the family member said. "She wanted to do it anyway."

Police are investigating the death, with an autopsy planned for today, according to the local paper The Mercury.

It's actually not unheard of for shoveling snow to lead to a heart attack, especially in people with pre-existing heart disease, the elderly, and those with risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In fact, last weekend's blizzard led to at least six other deaths related to shoveling. Three older men died in New York City "with shovels in their hands," the New York Times reported.

What makes snow shoveling, specifically, so risky? Part of it is the exertion, but it's also that cold temperatures naturally cause arteries to constrict and blood pressure to spike, making work in the snow even more dangerous than similar activity in warmer temperatures.

At this point, it's still unconfirmed what exactly caused Gerloff's death, and whether her pregnancy played a role. No matter what, it's tragic news. Ava Cruz, a childhood friend, has set up a GoFundMe to help cover Gerloff's cover funeral costs, The Mercury reported.

“She was a great person and she would have been an amazing mom," Cruz said.
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