Pregnancy and Your Heart
Finding out you’re pregnant is one of the most special moments of your life, and it’s also one of the most challenging.
There’s so much to experience, think about, and learn. And, worrying about your heart health on top of all that can be daunting and stressful. However, staying calm and relaxed is the best thing you can do for both you and your baby.
Years ago pregnancy was sometimes considered too risky for women who had an existing heart problem. Thankfully today though, many women deliver healthy babies with no complications, despite having a heart condition.
So, how does being pregnant affect your heart? Well, not surprisingly pregnancy places increased amounts of** stress upon your heart and circulatory system**, forcing them to work significantly harder for nine months.
These are some of the added strains to your heart during pregnancy:
- Increase in blood volume - your blood volume increases by 40 to 50 percent to make sure your baby is provided with all the nutrients it needs.
- Increase in cardiac output - the amount of blood your heart pumps each minute increases by 30 to 50 percent.
- Increase in heart rate - it’s normal for the heart rate to increase by 10 to 15 beats per minute.
- Decrease in blood pressure - sometimes your blood pressure decreases by 10 mmHg during pregnancy. This may be due to changes in hormones, and also because some of your blood is directed toward the uterus.
- Obviously being in labor itself will also add to your heart’s workload.
So, it’s hardly surprising that all of these changes cause your heart to work a lot harder, and this is why your health risks are increased a little if you have an existing heart condition.
If you do have an already existing heart condition, such as a history of heart disease, heart murmur, or high blood pressure, you should talk to your doctor about any concerns you may be having, and you may need to take special precautions - which we will discuss more in the next few weeks.
So, should you be worried about your heart health in pregnancy?
Studies have shown that good prenatal care, which includes close supervision by your doctor and midwife team, throughout pregnancy increases the chances of both mother and baby being healthy.
Please remember, if you are concerned about anything, do talk to your doctor or midwife straight away - worrying unnecessarily certainly won’t help.
Melanie is a dietitian and writer. She wrote for HeatlhCentral as a health professional for Food & Nutrition and Heart Health.