Heart Palpitations in Pregnancy

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Complications, and Tips

Pregnant woman talking to her doctor

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Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones and a growing uterus cause a variety of well-known pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, fatigue, and frequent urination. But, pregnancy can also affect other areas of your body like your circulatory system (your heart and blood supply). Some women don't notice the changes, but others can feel a difference in their heartbeat. 

Studies show that heart palpitations are common in pregnancy. Some women experience heart palpitations for the first time during pregnancy. Others get them before they become pregnant, and continue to feel them throughout pregnancy.

Heart palpitations during pregnancy are usually harmless, but they can sometimes be a sign of a problem. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, causes, treatment, and complications of heart palpitations during pregnancy.

Symptoms

Heart palpitations are a sensation or feeling that your heart is not beating normally. You may become aware of your heartbeat and feel like your heart is: 

  • Fluttering 
  • Racing or beating very quickly
  • Pounding or flopping 
  • Skipping beats
  • Having extra beats
  • Not beating in a regular rhythm  

You can feel palpitations in your chest, but also your neck and throat.

Causes

Your heart works harder during pregnancy so you may experience palpitations because: 

  • You are carrying extra weight.
  • Your heart has to pump 40% to 50% more blood.
  • Your heart beats up to 25% faster.

However, heart palpitations can have other causes such as: 

Diagnosis

You should tell your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor can determine if what you’re experiencing is normal, or if it needs to be checked out further. 

To diagnose heart palpitations, your doctor will ask you what you’re feeling. Since palpitations come and go, the doctor may not get to examine you while you have them. You can help the doctor by keeping track of your palpitations. 

  • When do they start? 
  • How do they feel?
  • How long do they last? 
  • Do you have other symptoms such as sweating or dizziness?
  • What are you doing when they start?
  • What helps them go away?

The doctor will take the above information and:

The doctor may also order: 

  • Blood tests to look for anemia or other causes.  
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to check the electrical activity of your heart and identify an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia.
  • An echocardiogram or ultrasound to check the parts of the heart and how they are working. 
  • A chest x-ray to check the lungs and heart for possible causes. 
  • A heart monitor that you keep attached to you for a day, a week, or more to catch palpitations or irregular beats.

Treatment

The treatment for heart palpitations depends on the cause and symptoms. When palpitations are related to pregnancy, they do not necessarily need any treatment. The doctor may just monitor your symptoms and ask you to keep track of your palpitations.

If the doctor feels you do need treatment, they will treat you in the safest way possible while you are pregnant. They may:

Dealing with Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations can come on suddenly when you’re active or resting. They can be frightening and cause anxiety. But, when you know what can cause them and what helps them go away, you’ll be better prepared to deal with them. Here’s what you can do when you feel your heart racing or pounding in your chest or throat.

  • Stop what you’re doing.
  • Sit down and rest if you were active.
  • Get up and move around if you were resting. 
  • Try some relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing.
  • Try pregnancy yoga or prenatal stretching to relieve stress. 
  • Have a glass of water.
  • Grab a snack.

Prevention Tips

Complications

Most of the time, heart palpitations do not lead to any complications during pregnancy.

A healthy heart can deal with the extra blood and faster heartbeat, but if your heart is damaged or you have a heart problem before becoming pregnant, pregnancy can make it worse. 

Complications of heart disease affect 1% - 5% of pregnancies. It is rare, but if a mom has a severe heart condition, the extra work pregnancy puts on the heart can lead to:

When to Call the Doctor

While most of the time palpitations aren’t anything to worry over, in a small percentage of women, they could be a sign of something more serious. You should call your doctor or go to the emergency if: 

  • You have palpitations often.
  • The palpitations are lasting longer or getting worse.
  • You feel dizzy, lightheaded, or feeling faint.
  • You are short of breath or have trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You just don’t feel right.

A Word From Verywell

Most people don’t think about their heart beating as they go about their day. So, if you feel your chest pounding, your heart skipping beats or your neck fluttering, it can definitely stop you in your tracks. Heart palpitations can be scary, but the good news is that they are pretty common during pregnancy, and usually not harmful to you or your baby. 

Of course, while it’s rare, palpitations can be a warning sign of a more serious issue, and complications can happen. So, you should always talk to your doctor about your pregnancy symptoms and feel comfortable enough with your doctor to call if you’re worried. Learning about what’s normal and what’s not can also help you feel more confident as you deal with palpitations during pregnancy.  

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Article Sources

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