One thing many mothers-to-be overlook when they are thinking about the
way pregnancy changes their bodies is the impact it has on the heart.
Pregnancy does affect your heart, whether your heart is healthy or you have a
high-risk pregnancy due to existing heart disease. Your OBGYN will monitor your heart health
throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Here is what you need to know.
Typical Pregnancy-Related Heart Changes
During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body will increase to support
your developing baby. Within the first five to eight weeks of your pregnancy,
the amount of blood will increase by between 40 and 50%. This increased
amount of blood impacts your heart, which has to work harder to pump the
additional blood. Generally, your heart rate could increase by about 10
to 15 beats per minute to accommodate the blood. For many women, blood
pressure actually decreases by about 10 mmHg because the blood vessels
dilate to allow the additional blood to flow through. The excess blood
could create a minor heart murmur, but if it occurs, it is not typically
In some women, instead of decreasing because of the dilation of blood
vessels, blood pressure actually increases during pregnancy. Preeclampsia
is a condition in which the blood pressure spikes after about 20 weeks
of pregnancy, after it has previously been normal. High blood pressure
increases the risk of heart attack and stroke and can also put the baby’s
health at risk, so your doctor may recommend an early delivery. Some women
also experience other heart complications that can cause fatigue, shortness
of breath, chest pain, and dizziness.
Pregnancy with Pre-Existing Heart Conditions
If you have a pre-existing heart condition, your pregnancy may be designated
as high-risk. The increased blood volume can strain your heart and increase
your risk of heart failure,
arrhythmias, and worsening of your existing condition. Your doctor will monitor your
heart health closely throughout your pregnancy.
Sunrise Children’s Hospital in Las Vegas is committed to providing the best possible care to mothers-to-be
and young patients through high-pregnancy care, children’s emergency
care, and our NICU. Call us at (702) 233-5437 for a referral to a high-risk
pregnancy specialist or for more information about our children’s hospital.