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Expecting a Baby? Keep an Eye on Your Heart Health

July 18, 2023

Maternity clothes? Check. Baby names? Check. Nursery theme? Check. If heart health isn’t on your mind during pregnancy, we understand. But it’s definitely something to consider.

When you think about pregnancy-related health issues, your heart health probably doesn’t make the list. It should, though. Your risk of heart health issues increases during pregnancy and during the postpartum period. 

That’s reason enough to keep your heart in mind as you focus on taking care of your body during pregnancy and after you deliver.

Wondering why your heart’s at risk during pregnancy? Keep reading to get the facts.

Heart Health & Your Pregnancy
If you’ve been pregnant before, you probably know that your body’s under a good bit of strain while you’re expecting. It’s not uncommon to experience new aches and pains as your body grows and evolves to accommodate the baby.

Your heart is evolving, too. During pregnancy, your heart is working extra hard. The heart’s function at all times is to pump blood throughout your body, but during pregnancy, it’s also responsible for pumping blood to your baby.

Other body changes also affect your heart health. For one, your heart will beat faster. Your heart rate rises gradually throughout pregnancy, increasing by as much as 20 beats per minute by the third trimester.

Your blood volume increases too, going up steadily during pregnancy, ultimately increasing by about 40% in total volume.

These changes put a little extra stress on your heart and can cause some of the symptoms many associate with pregnancy, like fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and lightheadedness.

For most women, this added stress on the heart won’t cause problems beyond a few annoying symptoms. But in some cases, it can lead to pregnancy-related heart issues, like arrhythmia, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes.

The risk is higher among women who have underlying heart health issues prior to pregnancy, including those who have congenital heart disease, diabetes, or heart valve disease. If you have an existing condition related to the heart, work carefully with your cardiologist and OB/GYN to create a plan to manage your condition and keep you healthy.

Keeping Your Heart Healthy During Pregnancy
All of the medical appointments associated with pregnancy can feel tedious at times, but they’re also important. Those regular checkups with your OB/GYN or a midwife provide an extra measure of protection to keep an eye out for any concerning heart-related symptoms both during your pregnancy and after delivery.

During your checkups, some markers of your heart health will be checked, including your blood pressure and your pulse. You’ll also have your blood sugar measured using glucose tests.

These tests help keep track of your health and identify any warning signs of pregnancy-related heart issues, such as chronic hypertension (high blood pressure diagnosed prior to week 20 of pregnancy), gestational hypertension (pregnancy-related high blood pressure diagnosed after week 20 of pregnancy), preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure diagnosed after week 20 with associated end-organ damage), or gestational diabetes.

You should also pay close attention to how you’re feeling, both during pregnancy and in the days and weeks after your child’s birth. If you feel anything that seems out of the ordinary, check in with your provider. 

When your heart’s at stake, West Tennessee Medical Group Cardiology is here to help. Our expert providers can offer the care you need, during pregnancy and beyond.