Pregnancy can cause all kinds of feelings, including fear. Similarly, feeling your heart isn’t beating normally can be scary. The combination of pregnancy and an unusual heartbeat is enough to worry anyone!
Happily, the experts at Heart & Vascular Institute say that heart palpitations during pregnancy are common and usually not a sign of a problem.
In most cases, heart palpitations are a result of the many changes that happen during pregnancy. Rarely, they’re a symptom of an underlying issue; in that case, palpitations are accompanied by other symptoms.
What is a palpitation?
We use the word “palpitation” to describe a range of feelings. Some people say it feels as if their heart is fluttering. Others say it feels like they have an extra heartbeat.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “my heart skipped a beat,” and that’s another way to describe the feeling of a heart palpitation. It may also feel like your heart is racing, even when you’re not doing anything to cause an increased heart rate.
Your heart during pregnancy
One of the many ways your body changes during pregnancy is you have 30%-50% more blood. Since it’s your heart’s job to pump that blood, it has to work much harder. Your resting heart rate may increase by 10-20 extra beats per minute.
Along with the increased blood supply, your blood vessels get bigger, which lowers your blood pressure. This process usually occurs during your second trimester. By your third trimester, about 20% of the blood in your body is going to your uterus.
Why palpitations happen
With your heart working harder, the chances of feeling palpitations increase. But a few other things increase it even more, including:
- Feeling anxious or stressed
- Eating or drinking something with caffeine
- Taking certain medications
- Having an underlying condition such as thyroid disease
If you have an existing heart issue, you may be more likely to have heart palpitations during pregnancy. In most cases, pregnant women experience heart palpitations simply because their heart is working harder to move more blood.
When to seek medical care
If you’re experiencing heart palpitations regularly, or they seem to be lasting longer or getting worse, discuss it with your doctor. In cases where the palpitations are a sign of something more serious, they’re generally accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- An irregular pulse
- A rapid heart rate that doesn’t go away
- Shortness of breath without exertion
If you have these symptoms along with heart palpitations, your doctor may suggest additional tests such as an EKG or blood tests.
Treating heart palpitations
The most appropriate treatment depends on the results of any tests your doctor requests. In the vast majority of cases, doctors choose to monitor your symptoms. If you do need treatment for a condition such as arrhythmia, there are medications that are safe during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant and worried about your heart, schedule an appointment at Heart & Vascular Institute, with offices in Dearborn, Detroit, and Southfield, Michigan. We can answer your questions, help you understand what’s happening, and hopefully ease your mind!